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Pats cooled offenses until Titans came in

Times Staff and Wire Reports
Published January 11, 2004

FOXBORO, MASS. - When it comes to playing at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots defense didn't need help from the weather.

This season, they have been pretty darned stingy regardless of the temperature.

In running up an 8-0 home mark, the Patriots had three shutouts, allowed four touchdowns, had 16 interceptions and surrendered a league-low 68 points.

In fact, entering Saturday the Pats allowed one touchdown in their past six home games.

But that was until the Titans showed up.

On their second possession of Saturday's playoff game, the Titans drove 61 yards in six plays and scored on a 5-yard run by rookie running back Chris Brown. Before that the Patriots had stopped 74 of their opponents' 75 previous drives.

On Tennessee's next three possessions, New England picked off Steve McNair, forced a punt and blocked a 31-yard field goal try.

HUGE DROP: Titans receiver Drew Bennett likely won't forget this game, and it won't be just for the brutal cold. With the game on the line, Bennett dropped what appeared an easy 26-yard reception in the final minute. It would have given the Titans a first down at the Patriots 16 with 1:45 to go.

"That was a tough way to end it," Bennett said. "I should have made the play, but I didn't. It was a go route and Steve put it up there perfectly. It hit both hands. I outjumped the defensive back but just didn't make the play."

WEATHER WARRIORS: The temperature at the 8:15 p.m. kickoff was a bitter 4 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like minus-10, making it the coldest game in the history of both teams.

But the Patriots played three previous home games in notably cold weather and won all three.

They knocked off the Colts 28-0 in 1993 when the temperature was 19 (minus-21 wind chill). They also won 23-22 over the Giants in 1996 when the temperature was 24 (minus-18) and 31-28 over the Jets in 1995 when it was 26 (minus-4).

The Patriots gave early arrivals free coffee and the first 10,000 got hand warmers which allegedly provided up to 10 hours of warmth.

TRADITION, SMUDITION: In keeping with a long tradition dating to the franchise's days in the Houston, the Titans offensive linemen did not wear protective long-sleeve wear under their jerseys.

SHORT PASSING GAME: Want to know how the Patriots went 14-2 without any big names on offense? The short passing game. Quarterback Tom Brady completed 317 passes in the regular season and 239 (75 percent) were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

So what did Brady do early? He launched a 41-yard touchdown to Bethel Johnson on his fourth pass of the game.

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