New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back for a pass in the first quarter of the AFC Divisional round playoff game against the Tennessee Titans Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo
The New England Patriots, seeking the sixth title of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Era, are headed to their seventh straight AFC championship game.
James White and Chris Hogan returned from injury to combine for three second-quarter touchdowns and the defending champions, despite surrendering the first score of the game, cruised to a chilly 35-14 AFC divisional playoff rout of the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots will at home again to face the winner of Sunday's Jacksonville-Pittsburgh game in the earlier of the two conference championship games Jan. 21.
White, who was nursed through a late-season ankle injury that saw him miss the final two games of the regular season, ran for one touchdown and caught a touchdown pass from Brady, who became the oldest quarterback to win a postseason game.
Hogan, who missed seven of the last eight games with a shoulder injury, also caught a touchdown pass as New England won for the 12th time in its last 13 contests.
Brandon Bolden, who didn't score a touchdown all season, ran 2 yards for a third-quarter score, his first rushing TD since 2014, and Rob Gronkowski caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to become the eighth player in history with 10 postseason touchdown catches.
The big tight end caught six passes for 81 yards, and his 835 postseason reception yards are second all-time among tight ends behind only Dallas Clark of the Colts (847).
The Titans, who had to win their regular-season finale to squeeze into the playoffs before pulling off a big comeback at Kansas City in the wild-card game, led 7-0 thanks to a 95-yard first-quarter scoring drive. Rookie Corey Davis made a one-handed catch of a 15-yard pass from Marcus Mariota for the first TD catch of his NFL career.
Davis caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Mariota with 1:55 remaining.
The Patriots, who haven't lost to the Titans in Foxborough since the Titans were the Houston Oilers in 1993, scored on three straight possessions to take a 21-7 lead at the half.
Brady captured his 26th postseason victory, recorded his 13th 300-yard postseason passing game -- extending his NFL record for both -- and also broke a tie with Joe Montana and is now the all-time leader with 10 three-TD playoff games.
Brady was 35 of 53 for 337 yards.
Danny Amendola caught 11 passes for 112 yards and running back Dion Lewis had nine grabs for 79. Lewis also ran for 62 yards and the Patriots improved to 8-0 when Lewis accounts for more than 100 yards of offense.
Mariota was sacked eight times -- a New England postseason record, including seven in the second half. Rookie Deatrich Wise Jr. and Geneo Grissom recorded two apiece.
Mariota finished 22 of 37 for 254 yards. Eric Decker had six catches and Davis five.
With running back DeMarco Murray out, Derrick Henry was held to 28 yards on 12 carries. Mariota ran for 37 yards on four attempts.
The win came in Belichick's record 37th postseason game as he broke a three-way tie with Tom Landry and Don Shula.
The game-time temperature was 24 with a wind chill of 13.
NOTES: Tennessee TE Jonnu Smith was carted off the field in the third quarter with a knee injury. ... Titans T Jack Conklin left in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. ... New England QB Tom Brady extended his NFL record with his 21st career multi-touchdown passing playoff game. ... The Titans gathered on the Patriots logo for a group huddle after coming out of the locker room pregame, something they normally do on the road. ... Ian Rappaport of the NFL Network reported Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and Brady will meet after the season "to relieve the tension and hash out their issues" in the wake of the ESPN story concerning problems among the three leaders of the organization. ... LB Kyle Van Noy was back for the Patriots, but RBs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee were still out. ... Titans general manager Jon Robinson spent 12 years in the Patriots' organization. ... The Patriots are 107-2 when leading a home game at halftime since 2001.