The Tennessee Titans rallied after halftime to pick up the upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs and continue on their NFL Playoffs journey. A big performance from Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry after a slow first half allowed the Titans to claw back from a 3-21 deficit while the Chiefs faltered against the rushing onslaught in he second half.
Dropped catches and efficiency put the Chiefs up at halftime
It took a long time for the Titans to get going in this game and the Chiefs made sure to capitalize on that early on. Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce put the Chiefs up by 14 points after only one quarter and Alex Smith seemed to be in rhythm. Mariota on the other hand, not only had to contend with his receivers dropping passes in key moments but his own inaccuracy, which had plagued him all season long in the National Football League, returned in the first half of this game. He threw an interception to corner Marcus Peters in the second quarter which put his team even further back of the chains as the Titans tried to find their footing in the game.
The game started to turn when Kelce left the game with a concussion after a hard hit, which limited what Kansas City could do on offense. They still managed to match a field goal by Ryan Succop with a touchdown reception by Demarcus Robinson but Kelce's absence was beginning to be felt and after the break, the Chiefs failed to adjust to this absence.
Mariota takes the game into his own hands
After relying on his receivers for most of the game, Mariota was given the license to make plays with his feet if the opportunity was there, and he took that freedom with both hands. While the Titans defense stiffened up and only allowed the Chiefs one first down in the third quarter, Mariota made the most of the offense drives he got by scrambling and making big plays with his feet. The biggest play came with six minutes left the in the third quarter. The Titans had managed to march down the field and were in the red zone when Mariota scrambled again, tried to throw the ball to a receiver in the end zone, only for his pass to be deflected up into the air. The ball, luckily, came back right to Mariota and the third year quarterback then hit the pilon and bring the Titans within eleven points.
Consecutive failed two-point conversions and poorly timed penalties did not deter the Titans, who also had to overcome a fumbled punt return by Adoree Jackson. The defense once again made life difficult for Smith and the Chiefs offense, as well as ensuring that Hunt was unable to influence the game as he usually does for the Chiefs.
Henry's fourth-quarter prowess comes to fore
During the regular season, Derrick Henry had been a force to contend with in the fourth quarter for opponents and this game was no different as he punished the Chiefs defense, who up until then, had contained the Titans rushing game. As the fourth quarter started, Henry rushed for 35 yards and put the Titans within five points of the Chiefs.
Henry's strength continued to push the Titans forward on offense and although it took longer than they would have liked, the Titans managed to get the go-ahead touchdown they needed when Eric Decker made up for his earlier drops by getting a 22-yard touchdown reception. After the Titans sacked Smith late in the game, the Titans went to Henry over and over again to run down the clock, and eventually pulled off a massive win not only for their playoff hopes but for head coach Mike Mularkey who was rumored to be out of a job if the Titans lost today.
As for the Chiefs, this could be the last time they see Alex Smith in their uniform as rumors of a trade have emerged over the last few days. Their season was summed up by their performance today, a lot of good early but ultimately undone by their inability to produce in the big moments.