For the seventh consecutive season in a row, the New England Patriots are headed onwards to the AFC Championship game. As The Patriots now await the winner of the Steelers vs. Jaguars game today to see which team will be paying a visit to Foxborough, Massachusetts next week. Here's what we learned during last night's 35-14, Patriots victory over the Tennessee Titans.

The Pats' exploit matchups

Death, taxes, and Bill Belichick exploiting matchups: three things that are guaranteed in life. Titans coach Mike Mularkey must have thought he had no better options on Saturday as Mularkey continued to put safety, Jonathan Cyprien, in one-on-one coverage against the Patriots.

The Titans as a team have had trouble all season long defending the passing game. Bill Belichick certainly made note of that during last night's game. Cyprien, despite an overall positive performance, was continually targeted by Brady and Belichick all night as a mismatch on defense.

The Titans suffered a blow when right tackle Jack Conklin left the game with an apparent knee injury. This allowed the Patriots pass rush (which has been non-existent at times this season), to create pressure and register eight sacks on a banged-up Marcus Mariota.

Stephon Gilmore

Possibly the Patriots best defensive player this season has been cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore has been a rock in the Patriots secondary since signing as a free agent from the Buffalo Bills on a five-year, $65 million contract. Gilmore allowed zero receptions with four targets against him for the evening, continuing with the already strong year that he has been having. On the season, Gilmore has earned an 88.1 rating, according to Pro Football Focus, making him the 11th highest rated cornerback, for the season, in the National Football League.

Gilmore has also been a significant upgrade over Malcolm Butler, who not only got burned by Titans receiver Corey Davis on a spectacular one-handed touchdown reception but whose rating of 81.0 according to Pro Football Focus, would rank 45th among all cornerbacks in the NFL for the season.

Postgame Quotes

Mike Mularkey on what his team gained out of this game said this, "A really good experience.

They get a little taste of what it is to be in big games against really good football teams. And you know, I have said it before, I have said it all week—you can’t make mistakes against a really good football team. They are waiting on you to do it and we accommodated them with a lot of mistakes offensively and then we couldn’t get off the field defensively. But it was a good experience, we had a lot of young guys playing in a really big game and it will go a long way for them."

Bill Belichick on his team's effort had this to say, "I thought that was a real good effort by our team tonight. Guys played hard in all three phases, played hard for 60 minutes. Tennessee's a good team. We saw what happened last week in Kansas City when Kansas City had a lead at the half similar to the one that we had.

Our guys did a real good job of kind of keeping their foot on the gas and keep pressing it. We had a lot of outstanding plays from a lot of players. They did a great job."


For the Patriots, they will host the winner of today's Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game in next week's AFC Championship game. For the Titans, their season has come to an end as they look forward to the 2018 season.