Reigning NFL Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots were a class above as they saw off the Tennessee Titans 35-14 in the divisional round.
Saturday's AFC playoff game at Gillette Stadium saw the Patriots advance to the championship game for a record seventh successive year.
After the Titans grabbed an early 7-0 lead, Tom Brady and the Patriots took control and cruised to victory on home soil.
The Titans (10-8) scored late in the first quarter and had 108 yards of offense.
They managed just 159 yards the rest of the way as the Patriots defense kept the Tennessee ground game that wore down the Kansas City Chiefs last week in check.
Titans running back Derrick Henry, who ran for 156 yards against the Chiefs, managed just 28 yards on 12 carries against the Patriots.
The Patriots (14-3) will host either the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game next Sunday.
QUESTIONABLE PENALTIES FAVOURED PATRIOTS
There were two questionable calls in the first half that went in New England's favour. The first was an offensive pass interference call on Titans receiver Eric Decker that wiped out a Tennessee first down. The Titans had to punt from their own 17-yard line and the Patriots capitalised on the short field to take a 14-7 lead on a six-yard James White run.
The second came on a Patriots punt when it appeared New England would be called for a false start. The Titans were instead penalised for inducing a false start and the five-yard penalty gave the Patriots a first down to extend the series. The Patriots capitalised and turned what would have been a three-and-out inside their own 20 into a 16-play, 91-yard drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Chris Hogan.
The Patriots led the NFL this season in first downs by penalties. While there is no conspiracy in place, those two calls were crucial and were the turning point of the game.
MARIOTA SHOWED PROMISE
The Titans scored first as Marcus Mariota threw a perfect pass to Corey Davis, who made an incredible one-handed diving catch in the end zone to give the Titans a 7-0 lead with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter.
The touchdown capped an 11-play, 95-yard drive as Mariota used his arms and legs to convert a pair of third downs. It was all New England after that as Patriots defensive co-ordinator Matt Patricia dialled up the pressure on Mariota, who was sacked eight times. Mariota finished 22 of 37 for 254 yards and two touchdowns with 37 rushing yards. While the Titans could not pull off the upset — it did not help that starting right tackle Jack Conklin was forced out with a knee injury in the first half — Mariota showed promise and could have Tennessee as a perennial playoff contender.
LEWIS IS THIS YEAR'S X-FACTOR
Patriots running back James White, who scored twice on Saturday, was New England's playoff hero last season. This year, it looks like Dion Lewis will be that guy. Lewis ran for 896 yards and six touchdowns and caught 32 passes for 214 yards and three scores during the regular season. He came up with multiple big plays, finishing with 62 rushing yards on 15 carries and nine receptions for 79 yards. He caught a short Brady pass on the first play of the second quarter and bolted for what was initially ruled a 50-yard touchdown. The Patriots had to settle for a 31-yard gain, but it set up White's first touchdown as the Patriots answered Tennessee's score.
Brady finished 35 of 53 for 337 yards and three touchdowns as Danny Amendola led all players with 11 catches for 112 yards.
The Patriots are now 8-0 this season when Lewis records more than 100 yards from scrimmage. As long as Patriots offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels continues to give Lewis touches, New England just might win another Super Bowl.
15. Dezember 2018
|Gibson has no worries over Proteas batsmen|
|Wolves 2 Bournemouth 0: Jimenez and Cavaleiro score against toothless Cherries|
|Crystal Palace 1 Leicester City 0: Captain Milivojevic earns vital victory|
|Watford 3 Cardiff City 2: Hornets hang on despite late fightback|
|Tottenham 1 Burnley 0: Eriksen snatches victory at the death|
|Huddersfield Town 0 Newcastle United 1: Rondon strike settles scrap|
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|Hannover 0 Bayern Munich 4: Gnabry and Kimmich star in crushing win|
|I admire Sterling – Guardiola|
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|Kashima Antlers 3 Guadalajara 2: Comeback win sets up Real Madrid semi-final|
|Hosszu claims fourth Hangzhou gold, Le Clos beaten by Santos|
|Manchester City 3 Everton 1: Jesus at the double as City go top|
|Parker defiant on low blow claims after ending 2018 ´with a bang´|
|Alisson: Liverpool must beat Manchester United|
|Mourinho´s brutal honesty praised by Karanka|
|Fielding inspired by Bellew after overcoming setbacks to face Canelo|
|Mourinho loves being a manager ´more than ever´|
|Khawaja unconcerned by poor start to India series|
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|Christmas form could transform Man United´s season - Rashford|
|Urgent changes needed at Manchester United – Ferdinand|
|Ishant confident as Kohli carries India into day three|
|Modric takes aim at Simeone for ´constantly undermining Real Madrid´|
|Kevin Durant provides playoffs warning to inconsistent Warriors|
|A-League Review: Janjetovic off as Wanderers suffer derby defeat|
|VanVleet turnover the ´turning point´ in Raptors loss|
|Shanahan on Mahomes no-look pass: ´I do it all the time´|
|De Bruyne and Aguero return to City bench, Sterling left out of starting XI|
|Kohli and Rahane combine to thwart Australia in Perth|
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|Crespo agrees to take charge at Banfield|
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|Liverpool v Manchester United: Van Dijk the rock on which Klopp can build a title triumph|
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|Liverpool v Manchester United: Resurgent Rashford now a leader for Mourinho|
|Injury-plagued Nuggets beat Thunder to hold Western Conference lead|
|Southee takes five as Sri Lanka recover in Wellington|
|Kings troll Curry by playing clips of moon landing|
|Guardiola: Premier League title race similar to Barca-Madrid battles|
|Ovechkin joins rare NHL club with second straight hat-trick|
|Liverpool can´t be judged just on trophies – Klopp responds to Mourinho|
|Athletics´ Chapman undergoes procedure on left shoulder|
|Marcelo: Real Madrid miss Ronaldo|
|Ronaldo right about Juventus team spirit – Allegri|
|Klopp: I´m not the pope of football tactics|
|Stade beat Ospreys on emotional Chauvin tribute night|
|Ligue 1 survival bid a marathon not a sprint for Monaco, as club appoints distance runner|
14. Dezember 2018
|Vertonghen eyeing Spurs future beyond 2020|
|De Bruyne injuries could be a blessing for City, says Guardiola|
|Emery prepared to face Arsenal´s centre-back crisis|
|Ulster complete Scarlets double, Exeter gain Gloucester revenge|
|Sheffield United 1 West Brom 2: Baggies comeback boosts automatic promotion push|
|Del Potro back on court following knee injury|
|Canelo v Fielding: Rocky ready to write his own fairytale in New York|
|Boca part company with Schelotto after Copa Libertadores loss to River|
|Canelo v Fielding: Tale of the tape|
|Juventus defender Cancelo has knee surgery|
|Canelo v Fielding: Alvarez and Rocky make weight in New York|
|Spalletti does not fear another mid-season crisis at Inter|
|Salah headlines CAF Player of the Year shortlist as Koulibaly misses out|
|Beckham Jr. out of Titans clash|
|Lipsky hits the front at Leopard Creek|
|Pederson coy over Wentz back injury|
|Liverpool ´not really likely´ to be active in January window, reveals Klopp|
|Always on the move and unpredictable - Pavard reveals surprising choice over toughest opponent|
|We need to get back to respect - Lampard alarmed by hate in football|