FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The rock upon which Coach Bill Belichick built the 2019 New England Patriots cracked last weekend.

The fate of the Patriots’ postseason run now rests on how quickly those cracks can be sealed.

Last seen mowed down by Miami, the Patriots’ defense is preparing for the two-headed offensive monster set to visit Foxborough on Saturday – Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill and 2019 rushing champion Derrick Henry. The Patriots can absorb several body shots from Henry because they’ve proven sufficiently rush resistant this season and stood tall in the red zone. They cannot, however, survive quick-score uppercuts from Tannehill.

Mostly because their offense can’t punch back.

The Patriots went 0-4 when opponents scored 20 or more points during the regular season. Tom Brady led only a single fourth-quarter comeback and winning drive for the second year of his career. The running game has shown late-season signs of life, but none of dominance.

The Patriots must be at their best to beat Tennessee, and for the first time in almost two decades, that no longer means Brady.

It’s the defensive backs.

“Just trusting our keys, trusting each other and believing in each other. That’s what its going to take,” Patriots All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore said. “We’ve got a great team coming in, probably the best team we’ve played all year. So it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

Undoubtedly, Tennessee has closely studied this week how Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick reduced the Pats’ secondary to rubble. Titans Coach Mike Vrabel explained as much Tuesday, as if he was instead standing in front of a team meeting.

“The quarterback was able to buy himself some time with his legs, and you’ve got to run great routes. If you run sloppy routes, they’ll undercut you,” Vrabel said. “The quarterback’s got to put balls in good spots to allow for guys to be able to play out in front of defenders, who do a fantastic job of getting their hands on the ball, disrupting the football. And Ryan last week was able to get them in the right plays a lot of time and put the ball in spots where his guys could make plays on it.”

Absent from Vrabel’s explanation was the mention of turnovers, which have dried up considerably. After forcing more than three per game through October, the Pats have produced nine over their last eight games – with more than half coming at Cincinnati when Gilmore grabbed two interceptions while shadowing Tyler Boyd.

Now licking his wounds from DeVante Parker’s 100-yard game on Sunday, Gilmore must turn to Tennessee’s No. 1 wideout A.J. Brown. Brown has surpassed 100 receiving yards in four of his last six games.

“He’s gotten better and better as the season’s gone on, and he’s hard to tackle once he gets the ball. That’s one thing that sticks out about him,” Gilmore said. “You’ve got to get him on the ground once he catches it.”

Of course, Tannehill hasn’t completed 70 percent of his passes this season firing strictly to a rookie. Fellow former first-round wide receiver Corey Davis ranks second with 601 yards, while tight end Jonnu Smith and running back Dion Lewis are involved, too. Smith scored against the Pats in the Titans’ 34-10 win last season, as Davis torched Gilmore.

“The ball gets spread around pretty good. There’s not just one guy that they’re throwing to,” Belichick said.

Since Tannehill took over the starting job in October, Tennessee is 7-3.

“With Tannehill they’ve had a blending of really everything. From run to play-action, but also just the specific looks that they’re giving is very easy for Tannehill,” said Pats defensive line coach Bret Bielema. “You can see the confidence in the way he’s executing the runs, the run games, the checks at the line of scrimmage, but also how he ties that into the passing game. Play-action or dropback, he’s just got a lot of options around him.”

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