This is when Tom Brady is at his best.
Not only is it the postseason, but also the New England Patriots feel under siege, with a swirl of questions about strained relationships among the quarterback, coach and owner. No one harnesses an us-against-the-world mentality better than the Patriots, who host the Tennessee in a divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium.
“We do what we always do. We show up to work and try to do the best we can do,” Brady said this week. “We know there’s a lot at stake and I think everyone’s put a lot into it. It doesn’t really matter what happened outside of this facility.”
With Brady at the helm, the Patriots are 6-1 against the Titans, and the star quarterback has 13 touchdowns and one interception in those games. He’s 6-0 against teams coached by Tennessee’s Mike Mularkey.
The Titans, who haven’t won a postseason game since 2003, are not ready to wave the white flag.
“It’s a playoff game, so it’s not like it’s the preseason where I can go out there, [say] ‘Oh, it’s Brady,’ and I’m chillin,’ ” said Tennessee safety Kevin Byard, who tied for the league lead in interceptions. “This is a playoff game. So I don’t really care if it was Joe Montana. You know what I’m saying?
“I’m trying to go out there and win the game. I want to make him look like [Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback] Blake Bortles if I can to try to catch a couple picks.
“Tom Brady is a great quarterback, but it’s a playoff game.”
This pits the oldest and youngest quarterbacks in the playoffs. Brady is 40, Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota is 24.
Those 16 years represent the biggest age gap for starting quarterbacks in postseason history.
Since Brady took over as New England’s starter in 2001, quarterbacks making their first or second postseason start against the Patriots are 0-7. But Brady downplayed the experience-versus-youth story line.
“It just comes down to how well you play,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about old guys are going to win or young guys are going to win, the home team, the road team.
“It’s really going to come down to execution. No one’s going to be able to do it for you.”
6 — Consecutive wins over Tennessee by New England.
8 — Interceptions by Byard, tying him for the NFL lead.
9 — Touchdown receptions in the playoffs by Rob Gronkowski, most by a tight end in NFL history.
14 — Patriots with at least 10 games of postseason experience, the most in this playoff field.
191 — Yards from scrimmage against Kansas City last weekend by the Titans’ Derrick Henry, a Titans record.
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which is for season (league rank in parentheses):
Tennessee: 20.9 (T18) New England: 28.6 (T2)
Tennessee: 22.2 (17) New England: 18.5 (5)
Tennessee: 199.4 (23) New England: 276.1 (2)
Tennessee: 114.6 (15) New England: 118.1 (10)
Tennessee: 239.2 (25) New England: 251.2 (30)
Tennessee: 88.8 (4) New England: 114.8 (20)
Tennessee: 43 (T5) New England: 42 (T7)
Tennessee: 49.0 (5) New England: 52.2 (8)
Tennessee: -4 (24) New England: +6 (11)
This has the makings of a New England blowout. The Titans were lucky to get out of Kansas City with a win; the Mariota pass deflected back to him for a touchdown was bizarre. The best thing to happen to the Patriots was all the outside noise. That only sharpens their focus.
PATRIOTS 31, TITANS 14