The Patriots continued upon their injury-riddled march to the playoffs with a 33-16 win over Tennessee on Sunday -- and yes, that's the exact score I predicted in Sunday's paper.
Here are the game notes as provided by the Patriots' media relations department, as well as my print-edition hots and nots. First, the hots and nots:
JAMES WHITE: The second-year back from Wisconsin caught seven of eight balls thrown his way for 71 yards, and had a 70-yard pass-and-run play erased by a penalty. He’s contributing.
AKIEM HICKS: He had a sack and a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown.
JAMIE COLLINS: Eight tackles, one sack and the forced fumble that led to Hicks’ score.
MALCOLM BUTLER: Another big interception, and one that was wiped out by a penalty. He may get beat sometimes, but he has great closing speed and still makes the plays more often than not, which is very good for a player at his stage of development.
JOEY IOSEFA: The running back from Hawaii, signed on Friday to the 53-man roster, had 14 carries for 51 yards including a 15-yard gallop.
CHANDLER JONES: Two sacks brought him to a season total of 12.5, his career best.
TOM BRADY: He said he was 100 percent, but that’s not likely. However, he still completed 23 of 35 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns
DANNY AMENDOLA: Dropped a punt (Titans got a field goal out of it), then tweaked his knee before the end of the first half. The special teams part is concerning.
KESHAWN MARTIN: His offensive pass interference penalty wiped out the 70-yard reception by James White.
4: Number of times in his career that Tom Brady has thrown for 35 or more touchdowns, tying him with Peyton Manning for the NFL record.
9: Number of career multi-sack games by Chandler Jones.
21: Consecutive home wins by the Patriots against non-divisional AFC opponents.
40: Game-time temperature at Gillette Stadium.
48: Distance of the field goal Stephen Gostkowski missed. That’s two this season.
66: Number of touchdowns scored by Rob Gronkowski. Two more ties him with Stanley Morgan for the team lead.
81: Consecutive home games the Patriots have won when leading at halftime.
223: Career wins for Bill Belichick. Three more ties him with Curly Lambeau for fourth all-time.
238: Consecutive sellouts in Foxboro.
ALAN BRANCH: Left the field early in the first quarter with what appeared to be a shoulder injury, but he returned.
DANNY AMENDOLA: Tweaked his knee late in the first half and was termed “questionable” at halftime. He did not return.
DONT'A HIGHTOWER: Tweaked a knee in the third quarter and was deemed “questionable.” He did not return.
PATRICK CHUNG: Suffered a hip injury late in the third quarter.
Almost as soon as Sunday’s game was over, work began to build the hockey rink on which the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will play on Jan. 1 for the NHL Winter Classic. The Patriots hoped entering the game that they won’t need the field again until Jan. 17.
And the game notes:
PATRIOTS WIN 12 GAMES FOR SIXTH STRAIGHT SEASON;
SECOND TEAM TO EVER HAVE AT LEAST 6 STRAIGHT 12-WIN SEASONS
The Patriots earned their 12th win of the 2015 season. It is their sixth straight season with at least 12 wins. The Patriots became the second NFL team to win at least 12 games in six straight seasons. Indianapolis had seven straight seasons of 12 or more wins from 2003-09.
TEAMS WITH MOS T CONSECUTIVE 12-WIN SEASONS SINCE 1970 MERGER
Indianapolis Colts 7 (2003-09)
New England Patriots 6 (2010-15)
Dallas Cowboys 4 (1992-95)
PATRIOTS HAVE 10th SEASON WITH AT LEAST 12 WINS
The Patriots have won at least 12 games 10 times in team history, including six straight seasons from 2010-15. The win vs. Tennessee ties Denver for third-most since the NFL merger.
MOST 12-WIN SEASONS SINCE 1970 MERGER
1. San Francisco 13
2. Dallas 11
3t. New England 10
3t. Denver 10
5. Pittsburgh 9
6. Indianapolis 8
PATRIOTS PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
The Patriots have clinched the 2015 AFC East championship and a berth in the playoffs. If (1) Pittsburgh defeats Denver later today, or (2) Pittsburgh and Denver tie and San Francisco beats Cincinnati later today, the Patriots would clinch a first-round playoff bye. The Patriots have earned a first-round bye in an NFL-record five consecutive seasons (2010-2014) and are seeking their sixth straight bye. Dallas and San Francisco earned four straight byes from 1992 through 1995.The Patriots earned a first-round bye in the 2014 NFL playoffs and lead the NFL with 10 first-round byes since the current NFL playoff format was instituted in 1990.
MOST SEASONS EARNING A BYE SINCE 12-TEAM
PLAYOFF FORMAT IN 1990
New England 10
San Francisco 8
PATRIOTS CONTINUE DECEMBER REIGN
The Patriots won their second consecutive December game to improve to a league-leading 54-9 (.857) in December games since 2001.
HIGHEST DECEMBER WIN PCT (2001-15)
Team W L T PCT.
New England 54 9 0 .857
Pittsburgh* 45 18 0 .714
Green Bay* 43 19 0 .694
Philadelphia* 43 20 0 .683
Indianapolis 42 23 0 .646
*-Not Including Week 15 Game
PATRIOTS HAVE A SACK IN EVERY GAME SO FAR IN 2015
The Patriots had five sacks against Tennessee and have recorded at least one sack in every game so far in 2015. The Patriots finished with a sack in every game in 1979, 1977, 1973 and 1963. The Patriots have streak of 27 straight games with at least one sack, the longest streak in the NFL. The last time the Patriots did not have a sack was vs. Oakland on Sept. 21, 2014.
NEW ENGLAND HAS THE BEST RECORD SINCE 2010 IN FINAL FOUR GAMES
New England has posted an NFL-best 19-3 (.864) record in the final four games of the regular season since 2010, including a 3-1 record down the stretch last season en route to a Super Bowl XLIX title.
Best records in the final four games of the regular season since 2010:
Team W-L Record Win PCT.
New England Patriots 19-3 .864
Carolina Panthers 16-6 .727
Green Bay Packers* 15-6 .714
Pittsburgh Steelers* 15-6 .714
Indianapolis Colts 15-7 .682
San Diego Chargers* 14-7 .667
*-Not Including Week 15 Game
THE PATRIOTS HAVE WON 21 STRAIGHT HOME GAMES AGAINST NON-DIVISION AFC OPPONENTS
The Patriots have now won 21 straight home games against non-division AFC opponents. Their last loss to a non-division AFC team was a 33-10 loss vs. Pittsburgh on Nov. 30, 2008.
PATRIOTS DEFENSE SCORES FIRST TOUCHDOWN OF THE YEAR
DE Chandler Jones forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by DE Akiem Hicks for a touchdown. It is the Patriots first defensive touchdown of the season and first time the Patriots scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone since Chandler Jones did it at Baltimore on December 22, 2013. It is the first defensive touchdown since Rob Ninkovich scored on a 15-yard fumble return vs Chicago on Oct. 26, 2015. The touchdown was the first of Hicks’s career.
• The Patriots tied their 2015 season high by forcing three Titans turnovers (2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery). The Patriots also forced three turnovers at Buffalo on Sept. 20.
• The Patriots have allowed opponents to score 269 points in 2015 (19.2 points per game). The Patriots have allowed fewer than 20 points per game in nine of the last 14 seasons, dating back to 2001, which is the second most in the NFL over that span (Baltimore, 10).
BELICHICK IS IMPRESSIVE IN DECEMBER
Bill Belichick is 55-11 (.833) in December with New England, the best record in December among head coaches with one team in NFL history (min. 25 games). George Seifert is second (27-6, .818).
BRADY LEADS THE PATRIOTS TO 12 WINS FOR THE 10TH TIME
Since entering the NFL in 2000, Tom Brady’s teams have reached 12 regular-season wins in 10 different seasons, second all-time, behind Peyton Manning.
STARTING QBS WITH THE MOST 12-WIN REGULAR SEASONS IN NFL HISTORY
Peyton Manning 11
Tom Brady 10
Brett Favre 6
John Elway 4
Jim Kelly 4
BRADY TIED NFL RECORD FOR MOST SEASONS WITH 35 TDS;
BRADY JOINS MANNING WITH 4 SEASONS OF 35 TDS
Tom Brady threw two first half touchdown passes to reach 35 touchdowns for 2015. He now joins Peyton Manning as the only NFL quarterbacks with four seasons with 35 or more touchdowns
QBS WITH THE MOST 35+ PASSING TOUCHDOWNS IN NFL HISTORY
PLAYER 35+ TD SEASONS
Tom Brady 4 (50 in 2007, 36 in 2010 and 39, 2011, 35 in 2015)
Peyton Manning 4 (49 in 2004, 37 in 2012, 55 in 2013, 39 in 2014)
Brett Favre 3 (38 in 1995, 39 in 1996 and 35 in 1997)
Drew Brees 3 (46 in 2011, 43 in 2012 and 39 in 2013)
Aaron Rodgers 3 (45 in 2011, 39 in 2012 and 38 in 2014).
BRADY ONE OF THE BEST FINAL FOUR QUARTERBACKS
Tom Brady is one of the best final four quarterbacks in the NFL.
QBs with the best records in the final four games of the year since 1970
(minimum 20 starts)
Quarterback W-L Record WIN PCT.
Tom Brady 45-9 .833
Philip Rivers* 30-7 .811
Roger Staubach 24-6 .800
Joe Montana 35-12 .745
Steve McNair 28-10 .737
*-Not Including Week 15 Game
TOM BRADY GETTING CLOSE TO SECOND CAREER 5,000-YARD SEASON
Tom Brady has 4,405 yards passing through 14 games in 2015. Brady needs to average 297.5 yards in the final two games to reach 5,000 yards.
MOST PASSING YARDS IN A SEASON
Peyton Manning (2013) 5,477
Drew Brees (2011) 5,476
Tom Brady (2011) 5,235
Drew Brees (2012) 5,177
Drew Brees (2013) 5,162
Dan Marino (1984) 5,084
Drew Brees (2008) 5,069
Matthew Stafford (2011) 5,038
GRONK MOVING UP
Rob Gronkowski has 65 career touchdowns overall (64 receiving, 1 rushing), which ranks
second in team history to the 68 total touchdowns by Stanley Morgan. He stands alone
with the most TDs by a Patriots tight end.
MOST CAREER TOUCHDOWNS BY A PATRIOTS PLAYER
1. Stanley Morgan 68 (67 rec, 1 ret)
2. Rob Gronkowski 65 (64, rec, 1 rush)
3. Ben Coates 50
4. Randy Moss 50
5. Sam Cunningham 49
6. Jim Nance 46
7. Tony Collins 44
MOST TOUCHDOWN RECEPTIONS BY A PATRIOTS PLAYER
1. Stanley Morgan 67
2. Rob Gronkowski 64
2. Ben Coates 50
2. Randy Moss 50
GRONK-BRADY MOVES INTO SOLE POSSESION OF 8TH PLACE
Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady connected on a 5-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter for the 64th touchdown connection between the two. That moved them out of a tie with Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry (63) for sole possession of 8th place for most touchdown connections all-time. Jim Kelly-Andree Reed are in 7th place with 65 touchdown connections.
GRONKOWSKI ON PACE TO CHALLENGE HIS OWN RECORD
Rob Gronkowski has 1,072 passing yards in 2015 and is on pace to finish the 2015 season with 1,225 receiving yards. Gronkowski holds the NFL record for most receiving yards by a tight end with 1,327 receiving yards in 2011.
MOST RECEIVING YARDS BY A TIGHT END
Player Yards Year
Rob Gronkowski 1,327 2011
Jimmy Graham (NO) 1,310 2011
Kellen Winslow (SD) 1,290 1980
Tony Gonzalez (KC) 1,258 2004
Todd Christensen (Raiders) 1,247 1983
GOSTKOWSKI ON PACE TO CHALLENGE NFL RECORD FOR POINTS
Stephen Gostkowski has 139 points through 14 games in 2015, putting him on pace to finish the 2015 season with 159 points. Gostkowski finished first in the NFL in 2014 with 156 points, second only to his team record of 158 points in 2013. Gostkowski led the NFL in scoring in 2014 for the third straight season. He is the first NFL player with three seasons of 150 or more points.
NFL Record for Most Points by a Kicker
166 David Akers (SF) in 2011
164 Gary Anderson (MIN) in 1998
163 Jeff Wilkins (STL in 2003
161 Mark Moseley (WAS) in 1983
158 Stephen Gostkowski (NE) in 2013
157 Mike Vanderjagt (Indianapolis) in 2003
156 Stephen Gostkowski (NE) in 2014
153 Stephen Gostkowski (NE) in 2012
Patriots Record for Most Points in a Season
158 Stephen Gostkowski, 2013
156 Stephen Gostkowski, 2014
155 Gino Cappelletti, 1964 (includes 7 TDs)
153 Stephen Gostkowski, 2012
148 Stephen Gostkowski, 2008
147 Gino Cappelletti, 1961
143 Stephen Gostkowski, 2011
DL CHANDLER JONES SETS CAREER HIGH IN SACKS
DE Chandler Jones was credited with a sack when he forced a fumble in the first quarter that was recovered for a touchdown by DE Akiem Hicks. He added a third quarter sack to push his 2015 total to a career-high 12 ½ sacks. His previous best was 11 ½ sacks in 2013. The 12 ½ sacks tie Mike Vrabel (2007) and Andre Tippett (1987) for third all-time in New England history behind the 18 ½ by Tippett in 1984 and the 16 ½ by Tippett in 1984.
PATRIOTS 10-PLUS SACK SEASONS
Sacks Player Year
12.0 Tony McGee 1977
10.0 Bobby Hamilton 1977
11.5 Tony McGee 1978
10.5 Tony McGee 1979
18.5 Andre Tippett 1984
16.5 Andre Tippett 1985
10.0 Garin Veris 1985
11.0 Garin Veris 1986
12.5 Andre Tippett 1987
11.0 Willie McGinest 1995
12.5 Mike Vrabel 2007
10.0 Tully Banta-Cain 2009
10.0 Mark Anderson 2011
10.0 Andre Carter 2011
11.5 Chandler Jones 2013
12.5 Chandler Jones 2015
JONES HAS NINTH CAREER MULTIPE SACK GAME;
FOURTH MULITPLE SACK GAME OF 2015
Jones had his ninth career game with multiple sacks and his fourth game in 2015 with multiple sacks.
KESHAWN MARTIN SETS CAREER BEST WITH A 75-YARD KICKOFF RETURN
WR Keshawn Martin set a career best with a 75-yard kickoff return in the second quarter. His previous best was a 54-yard return during his rookie season while with Houston vs. Jacksonville (11-18-12). It is the longest since an 81-yard return by Danny Amendola Nov. 23, 2014 vs. Detroit.
JAMES WHITE SCORES FOR FIFTH TIME IN FIVE GAMES
RB James White scored on a 30-yard reception in the second quarter to give New England a 21-3 lead. The touchdown was White’s fifth in the last five games (2 rushing, 3 receiving), which is the most by any Patriots player over that span.
Jamie Collins intercepted a Zach Mettenberger pass intended for Delanie Walker in the fourth quarter and returned it 51 yards to give the Patriots possession at the Titans’ 16-yard line, setting up Stephen Gostkowski’s 32-yard field goal that gave the Patriots a 33-16 lead with 1:06 left in the game. The interception was Collins’s first of the season and the third of his regular-season career. He also has two career playoff interceptions.
Jamie Collins sacked Titans QB Marcus Mariota for an 8-yard sack on third down in the second quarter, and Tennessee settled for a field goal on the next play.
Patrick Chung stopped Tennessee RB Antonio Andrews for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Patriots’ 38-yard line in the second quarter.
Jabaal Sheard sacked Titans QB Zach Mettenberger for a 10-yard loss on the final play of the first half.
Akiem Hicks sacked Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota for a 5-yard loss on second down in the first quarter, forcing the Titans into a third down that they did not convert.
Sealver Siliga stopped Tennessee FB Jalston Fowler for no gain on third-and-1 in the second quarter, forcing a Titans punt on the next play.
Jordan Richards broke up a Zach Mettenberger pass intended for Titans WR Dorial Green-Beckham on second down in the third quarter after Mettenberger was pressured by Rob Ninkovich, forcing a third-and-long that the Titans did not convert.
The Patriots held the Titans to a 25% third-down conversion percentage (3-for-12), marking the fourth time in the last five games that the Patriots have held their opponents to 25% or less on third down. The Patriots have held opponents to 25% or less on third down five times in 2015.
New England has recovered opponent fumbles in six of the last seven games. In the first seven games of the season, the Patriots recovered opponent fumbles in two games.
Stephen Gostkowski had four field goals, tying his season high (at Buffalo, Sept. 20).
Rookie running back Joey Iosefa led the Patriots with 51 rushing yards in his NFL debut.
WR LEONARD HANKERSON PLAYS IN FIRST GAME WITH THE PATRIOTS
WR Leonard Hankerson played in his first game with the Patriots.
RB JOEY IOSEFA PLAYS IN FIRST NFL GAME
RB Joey Iosefa made his NFL debut on special teams and as a running back on offense.
DAVID ANDREWS STARTED AT CENTER
David Andrews, who started the first ten games at center, started against Titans in place of Bryan Stork, who was inactive for the game.
JORDAN RICHARDS MAKES FIRST NFL START
2015 second round draft pick Jordan Richards made his first NFL start when the Patriots opened in the nickel defense.
LB DONT’A HIGHTOWER RETURNS TO ACTION
LB Dont’a Hightower returned to the starting lineup after missing two games due to injury.