The Tennessee Titans walked into Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs, as 9 point underdogs on Saturday morning, but they left with a 22-21 victory for their first NFL Playoff win since January 3, 2004 when Jeff Fisher’s crew defeated the Baltimore Ravens. In case you aren’t good at math, that’s over 14 years ago. There is literally a whole generation of young Titans fans who had never experienced a Titans Playoff victory until today.
But damnit, the Titans sure made it hard on themselves as they allowed the Chiefs to easily move the ball downfield via the three-headed monster of Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and rookie sensation Kareem Hunt as Kansas City held a 14-0 lead at the end of the 1st quarter. Hunt punched in the first touchdown from the 1 yard line after a big pass play from Alex Smith to Tyreek Hill picked up most of the yardage on the drive, and on the following possession Smith hit Kelce for a 13-yard TD.
After a couple defensive stops and a Marcus Mariota interception that came just outside of the Red Zone, the Titans finally got on the board with a 49-yard field goal from Ryan Succop. The Chiefs then took over with just under 2 minutes left in the half, when Wesley Woodyard and Brain Orakpo combined to sack Smith on first down. On second down, Smith found Kelce for 12 yards, but the play would prove fatal for Kansas City as Kelce suffered what appeared to be a concussion and was lost for the game. The Chiefs, however, continued their first half dominance and marched down the field for another touchdown, with Smith finding Demarcus Robinson on a 14 yard TD pass to effectively end the half.
But, that would be the last time the Chiefs got near the end zone, as the Titans defense came out on fire in the 2nd half, limiting Smith to just 33 yards in the half, after allowing him to rack up 231 in the 1st half. The Kansas City offense looked completely lost without Kelce on the field.
The Titans took the opening kickoff after halftime and put together a 15-play, 91 yard drive that took almost 9 minutes off the clock. The most impressive part of the drive had to be the way it ended, with Marcus Mariota catching his own pass that had been batted by a Chiefs defender right back into Mariota’s hands, and he found the pylon in the corner of the end zone for a 6 yard touchdown pass to himself, the first play of its kind in NFL Playoff history and just the second in all of NFL History.
The Titans defense then forced a 3-and-out, when a running into the kicker penalty appeared to extended the Chiefs drive, but another flag was thrown, this one an unnecessary roughness penalty against Kansas City, offsetting the initial penalty and allowing for a replay of 4th down. However, on the following play, Titans rookie and first round draft pick, Adoree Jackson, muffed the punt and the Chiefs recovered the loose football.
The Titans defense was once again up for the challenge, forcing the Chiefs to attempt a field goal after pushing them back 2 yards in 3 plays, and the kick by Harrison Butker richoted off the left upright and the Titans took over at their own 38.
After first down receptions by Corey Davis and Delanie Walker, second year running back, Derrick Henry, starting in place of the injured DeMarco Murray, broke loose for a 35-yard TD run. Henry finished with 156 yards on the ground and 191 total yards from scrimmage. You can check out his highlights here– I think the Titans have their back of the future.
Trailing 16-21 the Titans defense got yet another stop, forcing the Chiefs to punt again. Tennessee then converted three consecutive 3rd down conversions, before Mariota found Eric Decker in the middle of the end zone for a 22-yard TD pass. Mariota ended the game with 205 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and an interception, to go along with 46 yards on the ground.
The Chiefs began their final drive with just over 6 minutes remaining in the game, but the Titans defense once again answered the call and turned the Chiefs over on downs at the Titans 44 yard line with just over 2 minutes remaining.
On the ensuing Titans play, Derrick Henry carried for a short loss, but the ball came loose and Chiefs legend Derrick Johnson scooped it up and ran into the Kansas City end zone to the delight of Chiefs Kingdom. However, the excitement quickly turned to fury as the referee reviewed the play and it was obvious that Henry was down by contact before the football popped out of his hands. Henry then picked up the game-clinching 1st down, due in large part to a great block by his quarterback. Victory formation ensued for the Titans.
The Titans now await the result of tomorrow’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars to see if they will be traveling to New England or Pittsburgh for the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. If the Bills win, the Titans will play the Steelers and if Jacksonville wins as expected the Titans will play the Patriots. Either way it goes this team will have their work cut out for them, but they proved today that they aren’t scared of the moment and are up for any challenge they are met with.
Also, after this win it appears Mike Mularkey will remain the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, and thats probably deservedly so. We can talk about the offensive coordinator position after the next game.
Enjoy the win Titans fans, it’s been a long fucking time.
(Photo:JAY BIGGERSTAFF, USA TODAY SPORTS)