There were some similarities between that 2004 Titans-Patriots divisional contest and the 2018 version. The Titans were the No. 5 seed, once again, squaring off against the top-seeded Patriots. It was a game in which New England squeaked out a 17-14 win.
Eddie George, who played his last game as a Titan that Jan. 10, 2004 night, will help us turn back the clock. His first memory is one that likely defines that contest: "It was extremely cold. Man, it was extremely cold."
In fact, it was one of the coldest games in NFL history at 4 degrees and a wind chill well below zero.
The Patriots were solid six-point favorites, but the 2003-04 Titans were 13-4 and not quite the underdogs that the 2018 Titans (10-7) will be Saturday. This was early in the Patriots' dynasty when they had just one championship.
Donald Trump was there on the sideline before the game, talking to his friend Tom Brady.
The Patriots' game plan was to take away George and the Titans' rushing game. George said the Patriots hoped to force co-MVP Steve McNair into turnovers.
New England jumped out first thanks to a 41-yard touchdown from Brady to Bethel Johnson. After a missed field goal, Antowain Smith scored a short rushing TD to give New England 14 points during their first three offensive drives. The second TD came off a Rodney Harrison interception of McNair. Tennessee put up a rushing TD in between to keep up, and trailed 14-7 at halftime.
"They were so well-coached. They knew our tendencies. They anticipated things we were going to do, even things we hadn't done before," George said. "It's a chess match with them where you got to think three or four plays ahead of time. They're good at adjustments on the fly."
Defenses settled down in the second half.
Only one more touchdown was scored, a McNair connection with Derrick Mason late in the third quarter to tie the game.
It was a matter of field position and avoiding mistakes to finish.
"We knew it was going to come down to whoever was going to have the ball last. We felt like we had an opportunity to win it," George said.
The Patriots pinned the Titans deep in their own zone during a mid-fourth-quarter drive and were set up at Tennessee's 40-yard line after a punt. A Brady-to-Troy Brown 4-yard completion on fourth-and-3 put the Patriots into field goal range.
Adam Vinatieri made the 46-yard field goal to put New England up 17-14 with a little more than four minutes left.
McNair did his best to lead the Titans back on the following drive, getting to New England's 33-yard line. An intentional-grounding call and holding penalty on back-to-back plays put the Titans in a third-and-23.
McNair hit Drew Bennett, who made a good sideline grab to pick up 11 yards. On the next play, McNair heaved one up for Bennett, who bobbled the ball before Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel knocked it away. Turnover on downs. The comeback drive was unsuccessful.
"We almost pulled that out," George said.
George said he believes the 2018 Patriots' defensive game plan won't change much from 2004, which means loading up to stop the run.
"It's really tough to find out how to beat them. You just got to be able to keep Brady uncomfortable, get on top of them, set the tone, have them play one-dimensional and pray to God that you get a break here or there -- whether it's a fumble, tipped pass for interceptions," George said. "When you get a chance to slice the jugular, you got to do it. When you give Brady an opportunity to go and score on the final play of a game, it's a wrap. We seen that before."
Brady went on to win his second Super Bowl, and now he has five rings. The Titans have won just one playoff game (last week at Kansas City) since that year.