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FOXBOROUGH Filip Forsberg Jersey , Mass. — Having already survived two win-or-go-home battles, the Tennessee Titans face their toughest test when they visit the defending champion New England Patriots in Saturday night’s AFC divisional round game.
The Titans pulled out a 15-10 home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in their regular-season finale to earn a spot in the playoffs. They then went on the road and rallied from 21-3 down and stunned the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 to advance for the second time.
Now, the Titans are two-touchdown underdogs as the Patriots are expected by most people to take the next step toward their sixth Super Bowl crown of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Era.
“It just shows that how tough of a team they are under the pressure,” New England’s Rob Gronkowski said earlier this week. “They’ve basically won two playoff games — one to get into the playoffs and a playoff game last week. It just shows how tough they are, how fundamental they are and that they’re ready to bring it in the clutch times.”
The Patriots have won the last six games between the teams and the Titans haven’t won in Foxborough since 1993, when they were the Houston Oilers.
While the Titans were pulling off their major comeback against the Chiefs, the Patriots were going through another bye week, but one that was filled with controversy. An ESPN report dealt with dissension among New England’s power trio of owner Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady — much of it centering around the Pats’ trade of Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for just a second-round draft choice.
So, the Patriots have been dealing with questions all week — as the Titans just prepare.
“You know what, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know anything about it,” Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey said on a conference call with the New England media, regarding the controversy. “I’m not a social media guy. I don’t know enough, I really don’t, to make any comment about something like that.”
One thing, besides championships, the Patriots have become known for is blocking out distractions. Belichick simply won’t allow any outside stimuli to affect his team.
“Throughout my years here I’ve seen a lot of negative, a lot of positive,” Gronkowski said Tuesday. “The reputation that Coach tries to get us to have is just ignore the noise — ignore the noise from the outside and I feel like that’s what myself and a lot of other players have been doing.
“You just gotta ignore the noise and just focus on what we’ve been doing all year and that’s preparing hard, studying our opponent, getting ready, mentally and physically for the big game, so what’s going on on the outside, as a team, as an organization Authentic Johnny Townsend Jersey , just gotta keep grinding, keep going, keep doing our job.”
The New England defense is spending the week preparing for mobile quarterback Marcus Mariota, a third-year pro who can make things happen with his legs. He ran 87 yards for a 2015 touchdown.
“He actually knows when to run and when to pass the ball when scrambling,” Patriots safety Duron Harmon said Wednesday. “It’s a very unique skill because a lot of guys once they get scrambling, they’re not even looking downfield anymore, they’re just looking to run. But he always has his eyes downfield — always knows when to run, when to throw the pass, I would say his touch on the ball, too, that gets people open when he’s scrambling.”
Mariota, who threw 13 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions during the regular season, had two touchdown passes and one pick in the playoff win. One of the touchdowns passes actually went to himself after Darrelle Revis batted down one of his passes before Mariota caught it and scored.
But Mariota was also sixth in the NFL (Brady was first) in third-down passer rating.
Wednesday, the Titans announced running back DeMarco Murray will miss his third straight game with a knee injury, while the Patriots could get both James White and Rex Burkhead back to further fortify a running game that has excelled even without them thanks to Dion Lewis.
Earlier this week, Titans’ All-Pro safety Kevin Byard said the goal of his defense is pretty simple — turn Brady into Blake Bortles.
“It’s a playoff game, so it’s not like it’s the preseason where I can go out there, ‘Oh, it’s Brady,’ and I’m chillin’,” Byard said Tuesday.
“This is a playoff game. So I don’t really care if it was Joe Montana. You know what I’m saying? I’m trying to go out there and win the game. I want to make him look like Blake Bortles if I can and try to catch a couple picks.
“Tom Brady is a great quarterback, but it’s a playoff game. I’m not really looking at it like that.”
Cornerback Logan Ryan, a former Patriots player now with the Titans, has been limited in practice with an ankle injury.
Francisco Lindor had an exceptional Monday after a very good Sunday.
Lindor homered twice, including a grand slam, and finished with a career-high seven RBIs as the Cleveland Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 9-3 on Monday night.
On Sunday Authentic Ryan Switzer Jersey , he had two doubles and a solo homer in Oakland.
Lindor homered in the fourth after Yan Gomes singled and Jakob Junis hit Tyler Naquin and Rajai Davis with pitches. He added a three-run homer in the sixth to finish Junis’ evening.
”One was a changeup and the other one was a slider,” said Lindor, who has 23 home runs. ”My approach is hit the ball and if it goes out it goes out. It was a good pitch to hit (on the grand slam). I was just trying to get one guy in. I’m not a power hitter. Just get a good pitch to hit and drive it.”
Lindor has 17 home runs and 54 RBIs in 54 games against the Royals.
”Just a routine day for him, today and yesterday,” Indians starter Corey Kluber said. ”He continues to get better, which is kind of scary.”
Kluber (12-4), who failed to make it out of the second inning in his previous start at St. Louis, gave up two runs in the first, but little after that. He allowed three runs and seven hits, walked none and struck out five over six innings.
Davis had three hits and scored three runs.
”I got myself into trouble with a couple of hit batters and good teams are going to take advantage of that,” Junis said.
Junis (5-10) has lost his last seven starts and is tied with teammate Jason Hammel for most losses in the American League. He has yielded a major league-high 24 home runs, including 12 in his last five starts over 27 innings.
”You worry about his confidence more than anything else,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. ”Again, it’s an easy fix. When you’re off the side of the slider, it’s gonna be a cement mixer. He started off good, just didn’t end that good.”
Whit Merrifield homered on Kluber’s third pitch for his fourth career leadoff home run. Salvador Perez singled home Mike Moustakas, who had doubled, in an 11-pitch at-bat for the other Kansas City run in the first.
Jorge Bonifacio logged his first RBI of the season in the Kansas City sixth after being suspended the first 80 games for taking a performance enhancing drug.
The Royals have lost 23 of their last 28 games. They are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the most losses in the majors with 54. They scored four runs or fewer for the 23rd time in the last 24 games.
ROYALS SIGN FIRST-ROUND PICK
The Royals signed right-hander Jackson Kowar, a first-round compensation selection and the 33rd overall pick, to a $2.118.700 signing bonus. He went 10-5 with a 3.04 ERA as a Florida junior.
GOODBYE LEBRON
LeBron James has left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Los Angeles Lakers. ”If someone gave me $154 million I’d probably go somewhere too,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. ”He did what he said he was going to do. He got them a championship. When you’re a free agent, you’ve earned that right. I will miss him, because I loved going to games when he played. It’s hard to begrudge somebody. He earned it.”
TRAINER’S ROOM
Indians: RF Lonnie Chisenhall was a late scratch with a strained left calf. Francona said Chisenhall would definitely go on the disabled list. … RHP Danny Salazar underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in Dallas. ”It just kind of came to a point,” Francona said. ”That’s the last option. You try everything else before you go into somebody’s shoulder. The good side is there was no structural (damage). The rotator cuff was good. They cleaned him out. It’s a shame we lost him for the whole year.”
UP NEXT
Indians: RHP Shane Bieber is 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA in his first four big league starts.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy is winless in six home starts this season, going 0-3 with a 6.32 ERA.
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