Patriots' pass rush generates spark with franchise-record eight sacks

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots set a franchise playoff record with eight sacks in Saturday’s 35-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans, with New England defensive end Trey Flowers detailing part of what contributed to their success against quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“He’s a step-up guy, so you want to get that penetration up the middle and don’t allow him to go outside on the edge,” Flowers said, adding that the coverage in the secondary was crucial in taking away Mariota’s first read. “We know he’s a guy that if he doesn’t get an open look, he’s going to look for the rush. That’s what he did. We had a lot of guys making plays.”

Rookie defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. tied for the team high with two sacks, along with DE Geneo Grissom, who picked up his late in the fourth quarter. Trey Flowers, defensive linemen Adam Butler and Ricky Jean Francois and linebacker Marquis Flowers also registered sacks.

Part of what contributed to the performance was strong play against the run on early downs. That was reflected in how the Titans had 12 third-down situations in which they needed seven yards or more to convert.

And that allowed the defense to call on a dime package that included three linemen (Trey Flowers, Butler and Wise) and two linebackers (Marquis Flowers, Kyle Van Noy) -- a grouping that brought a lot of energy to the field.

“You have a lot of guys that want to get after it,” Trey Flowers said. “You have Adam up the middle getting penetration and pushing the pocket. You have Deatrich on the edge, working his good rush and things. And you have Marquis and Van Noy in the middle either spying [Mariota] or getting some penetration, as well.

“When you’re doing things like that, and you’re on a roll like that and the back-end guys are holding their own and continuing their coverage -- when you’re clicking like that, you’re bound to be successful.”

As Patriots coach Bill Belichick pointed out, it also helped that the Patriots jumped out to a decisive lead in the second quarter, which made the Titans more one-dimensional.

Butler, the undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt, said he was speechless to hear of the franchise record for sacks in a playoff game and humbled to be part of history. He also talked about how he works well with Wise in terms of them playing off each other, which is something they’ve built over time. Wise believes it has resulted in a “great chemistry” between the two rookies.

“We fed off the crowd; we fed off each other. The momentum was building play after play after play,” Wise said.