There is much joy among Tennessee Titan fans tonight! After an 8 year gap between playoff appearances, the Chiefs were 8 and a half point favorites to make this a one and done journey. The Titans played tough football and got the job done with the upset of Kansas City 22-21. They certainly didn’t play error-free though, needing a 19 point comeback in the second half.
Tennessee had two, blown 2 point conversions, a running into the kicker penalty that gave the ball back to the Chiefs in Titan territory and an interception thrown in the red zone. All that and a quarterback throwing a touchdown pass to himself, the Titans victory story turned out to be about numbers.
Chiefs 21 Titans 3
The Titans certainly looked like they were going to get beat all the way back to Nashville at halftime. All the numbers were on Kansas City’s side of the ledger. Alex Smith lit up the Titan secondary. Kareem Hunt scored the opening touchdown of the game on a 1-yard blast and Smith hit Travis Kelce with a 13-yard strike to put the Titans in a 14 – 0 hole late in the first quarter. Tennessee did show signs of offensive life getting deep into Chief territory twice. A Marcus Peters interception stifled one drive and the other ended with a Ryan Succop field goal just past the two-minute warning. Alex Smith then showed why he has been a premier quarterback all season by slashing the Titans defense in that final 1:55 of the half. That drive ended with Smith’s second touchdown pass, a 14 yarder to Demarcus Robinson.
231 and 33
Yes, the Titans defense was rocked for 231 yards through the air in the first half. That all changed after halftime. Smith had been nearly perfect in the first half when Titan defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau took his defense to task. They responded playing with much more aggression and flow to the football. Tennessee was shutting down the Kansas City until the two-minute offense the Chiefs ran at the end of the first half. The second half saw Tennessee disrupt and clamp down on the Chiefs weapons, not allowing a drive over 5 plays or 21 yards until the final one. The Titans brought pressure from all places harassing and hurrying Kansas City and it’s lethal passing attack into finishing with 33 yards the second half.
23 for 156
Derrick Henry said “I felt like I played soft.” after last weeks win against the Jaguars. What was the Titan offense doing while the defense was locking down the Chiefs? Handing Henry the football, and he was made of steel tonight. Henry carried the ball 23 times for a career-high 156 yards. He was the bruising, unstoppable force that Titan fans envisioned when he was drafted in the 2nd round. His 35-yard burst on the left side for a touchdown pulled the Titans within 5 points at 21 – 16 with just over 14 minutes to play.
The Number 1
In Marcus Mariota’s first playoff game the number 1 came up a lot. He threw 1 interception but no more. He threw 1 touchdown to himself in a play I’ve never seen before or probably will again. Eric Decker dropped 1 pass but caught the one that counted for the game-winning score. The 1 that was most impressive to me was the 1 block Mariota threw on Chiefs linebacker Frank Zombo. With 1:52 seconds left on a key third and ten play, Mariota handed off to Henry who started right. His path blocked by Zombo, Henry reversed direction but still looked like the play would be stopped. The Titans would be forced to give the ball back to Kansas City’s high octane offense. Mariota stepped into Zombo, standing him up and giving Henry the room to get the first down and seal the come from behind victory.
Titans 22 Chiefs 21
These numbers are pretty important too. The Titans reeled off 19 unanswered points to beat the Chiefs and move on to the divisional round. The #Titanup faithful will have to wait until the Buffalo at Jacksonville game concludes to find out where the Titans road takes them next week. If Buffalo upsets Jacksonville then the Titans will play at Pittsburgh. If things go according to plan and the Jaguars win then it’s a date with the Patriots at New England. This is the NFL though and things don’t always go as planned. Just ask a Chiefs fan.
Dean Williams is the Managing Editor of the Titans for Full Press Coverage. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Dean on Twitter @badappleffb or email firstname.lastname@example.org