The Patriots and Titans face off on Sunday at Nissan Stadium in a fascinating game. Both teams come off great primetime wins. With the Patriots outduelling the Packers 31-17 in Foxborough on Sunday night and the Titans handily beating the Cowboys 28-14 on Monday night. Both teams and fanbases now are rightly filled with optimism looking towards the playoffs but need to win this game. I’m here to look at some of the key links between the two teams.
Vrabel is the Head Coach of the Tennessee Titans. He was the linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator in Houston. As a player, he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Steelers, having gained All-American honours at Ohio State. He had stint in Pittsburgh, was made a free agent in 2001, went with the Patriots. This was a masterful signing as Vrabel would go on to be one of the most versatile and impactful players ever signed by Belicheck.
Under Belicheck’s guidance, Vrabel blossomed, winning 3 Super Bowl titles, making the Pro Bowl and All-Pro in 2007. Vrabel was adept at playing different positions. He caught 10 passes all for touchdowns, most notably coming in back to back Super Bowls. He’s 4-4 now as a head coach and will need to impart some of his Patriots wisdom onto his players to give them a chance on Sunday.
He has had a remarkable journey to get to the Tennessee Titans. Lewis was drafted in the 5th round by the Eagles in 2011. He was in Philadelphia until 2013 when he was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Lewis missed the entire season with a broken leg, then was cut. After being picked up by the Colts Lewis had belief but it was just a week later that he was looking for work again. He was aquired by New England, suffered some injuries but became a great player. Lewis will always be remembered in New England, because he scored 23 points when they won Super Bowl LI.
He followed up with a solid 2017 season helping the Patriots back to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. After that season he was a free agent so the Titans signed him in March to a 4 year $20 million contract. It looks to be paying dividends at the moment as Lewis over the last two games has over 270 total yards – he will be key for the Titans to win on Sunday.
Jason & Devin McCourty
Jason McCourty is a cornerback for the Patriots but he wouldn’t have got there without the Tennessee Titans. He was drafted in the 6th round by the Titans in the 2009 NFL Draft and played there for 7 years as a quality starter. His twin brother Devin McCourty also plays for New England, he’s played since 2010 when he was drafted in the first round. Now a 2 time Super Bowl champion, 2 time Pro Bowl selection and a 3-time All-Pro selection he’s been one of the best pieces on Belicheck’s defence for the better part of a decade. They play alongside each other now and are hoping to continue winning.
Malcolm Butler was an undrafted cornerback from Western Alabama in 2014. He will forever be heralded in NFL folklore for making one of the best plays ever in a Super Bowl. Butler intercepted Russell Wilson on the 1-yard line in Super Bowl XLIX, made himself a champion and a household name. Two years later, he was again a Super Bowl winner. Having played 98% of the Patriots snaps that season, he was controversially benched in Super Bowl LII. He became a free agent and signed with the Titans. His play has been inconsistent at best, but coming up against Belicheck I’m sure he will raise it.
Alex Riley is a 49ers fan who’s followed the game since 2010. He’s currently at the University of Leicester. You can find him on Twitter at @NFLRiley and his blog at www.rileynfl.wordpress.com
Image from zimbio.com