When the New England Patriots face off with the Tennessee Titans on Saturday (Jan. 13) in the AFC divisional round, they will have a secret weapon that could contain dual-threat quarterback Marcus Mariota. James Harrison, the 39-year-old veteran linebacker they acquired late in the season, could play a pivotal role in limiting Mariota’s threat on the ground. The Patriots’ run-defense has been devastated by injuries midway through the season, but they got a glimpse of hope with Harrison’s arrival, according to Doug Kyed of NESN.com. In Harrison’s debut, the Patriots gave up just 40 yards on 19 carries to the New York Jets in Week 17.

Harrison tallied five tackles and sacked Bryce Petty twice late in the game despite his lack of familiarity with the Patriots’ defense. A report by NESN carried some of the facts presented in this piece.

The Titans will rely heavily on their ground game with Derrick Henry and Mariota leading the way. Currently, the Titans rank 15th in rushing and second in rushing touchdowns, a weapon which they can bank on against the Patriots. However, Harrison said he will be ready for Henry and Mariota, whom the veteran pass-rusher called a “two-headed monster.” Harrison is a known pass-rusher in his 15 years in the NFL. Before he signed with the Patriots, Harrison was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time leader in sacks with 80.5.

He asked for his release from the Steelers after playing just 40 snaps this season. He was relegated to a backup after the Steelers started rookie TJ Watt in his place.

Harrison getting comfortable with Patriots’ system

It’s more than two weeks since he signed a one-year deal with the Patriots and Harrison said he’s feeling a little better about his knowledge of the team’s defense under head coach Bill Belichick.

However, Harrison admitted that he’s nowhere near the status where he needs to be in terms of readiness. When he was asked about his impression of working under Belichick, Harrison replied “good.”

Titans head coach not excited about facing Harrison

Titans head coach Mike Mularkey admitted that he’s not excited to face Harrison.

Mularkey was the offensive coordinator of the Steelers when the team signed Harrison in 2002. Mularkey said Harrison is still good despite his age. “He’s a guy that’s just passionate about it. He doesn’t look much different. I can say that. He still can play,” said Mularkey. Aside from Mularkey, Harrison also played for Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who worked with the Steelers for 11 years.