Time for Patriots to get familiar with Titans' 'exotic smashmouth' scheme

The New England Patriots host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday (8:15 p.m. ET, CBS) in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, and ESPN.com Titans reporter Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) provides a primer for Patriots fans to get familiar with them:

Offensive philosophy: Coach Mike Mularkey's exotic smashmouth scheme relies on bunch and multi-tight end sets to present versatile looks for the Titans' running game. At its core, this is a run-first scheme that opens up the play-action game when it works. That philosophy has been under heavy criticism this season due to a step back from most of the Titans' offensive players, particularly quarterback Marcus Mariota. Recently, the Titans have had more success on no-huddle drives on which Mariota has more control over the playcalling and rhythm. The Titans typically try to control time of possession and implement their bread-and-butter plays early. The run game, especially led by Derrick Henry, typically thrives on running behind left tackle Taylor Lewan. The pass game flourishes off the production and attention drawn by tight end Delanie Walker.

Defensive philosophy: Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has played or coached in the NFL for 59 consecutive seasons, and this season he has shown that he hasn't lost a step. A stout front seven provides the base for an underrated Titans defense. Known as the creator of the zone blitz, LeBeau can vary from a heavy-blitzing game plan to falling back into three-man rushes like the Titans did Saturday at the Kansas City Chiefs. At times, he'll match up his cornerbacks with top opposing receivers. Adoree' Jackson typically handles speed receivers while Logan Ryan often draws physical and/or elite slot receivers. LeBeau has consistently been one of the best in the NFL at making halftime adjustments. That showed when Tennessee shut out Kansas City in the second half after allowing 21 points in the first half.

What stands out on special teams: Brett Kern is one of the NFL's best punters, and he earned the AFC's Pro Bowl spot. Kern has a strong leg, but he works extremely well with the Titans' coverage unit to minimize returns. Jackson can be an explosive weapon as a returner. He had multiple return touchdowns called back due to penalties in the preseason and earlier in the regular season. He also muffed a punt last week at Kansas City.

Best player no one talks about: Linebacker Wesley Woodyard is one of the Titans' captains and leaders, and he's having the best on-field year of his career, at age 31. Woodyard re-emerged as a three-down linebacker who plays a huge role in the Titans' run defense. Woodyard led the team with 124 tackles and finished fourth on the team with five sacks. He will be tasked with stopping the Patriots' inside runs and helping out in coverage when Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis are sent on short routes.

Injury situation: The only one to watch is running back DeMarco Murray, who has a significant right knee injury. Mularkey isn't ruling him out yet, but the expectation is Henry will be the Titans' feature back. Even if Murray finds a way to play, he would likely be available only in a limited role.

Strengths: Rush defense. The Titans finished fourth in the NFL, allowing 88.8 rushing yards per game. They held the NFL's leading rusher, Kansas City's Kareem Hunt, to 42 rushing yards in Saturday's win. Todd Gurley is the only back who rushed for more than 100 yards against them this season. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and linebacker Wesley Woodyard are anchors to a fast-pursuing group that rarely gets gashed for big plays on the ground. Dominance in the run game often forces teams to be one-dimensional.

Weaknesses: Passing offense. It's a struggle to watch the Titans' passing attack sometimes, as Mariota's inconsistent accuracy, a lack of receiver precision and a scheme that isn't a great fit for either of them has stopped the Titans from maximizing their talent. Walker can hurt a defense, but the Titans lack explosive speed to stretch a defense. Mariota has extended plays, creating more big plays, but there haven't been a ton of games in which the young quarterback has torched a defense consistently with his right arm.