Your Tennessee Titans are moving on to the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs. They just took down the Chiefs at Arrowhead, behind a strong performance from Derrick Henry, Marcus Mariota and the defense.
Here’s how it played out.
Both teams missed opportunities for big plays on their first drives. It was Tyreek Hill dropping a go route, who had beaten Adoree Jackson down the field. For Tennessee it was Marcus Mariota misfiring on an out-post to Corey Davis, which would have moved the sticks and gained a chunk of yardage.
After trading punts and feeling each other out, the Chiefs connected on one of those big plays. Tyreek Hill turned a short catch into a field flipper, putting the Chiefs in Titans’ territory. Travis Kelce got lost in the zone on the next play, putting Kansas City on the goal line. Kareem Hunt capped the drive two plays late to give the Chiefs an early 7-0 lead.
The Titans wouldn’t be able to answer either. An unnecessary roughness call on Ben Jones coupled with a run for nothing on 2nd and 20 doomed the drive before it began.
Tennessee punted back to the Chiefs and they mashed on the gas. Alex Smith hit a strike over the middle to Kelce to put Kansas City up 14-0 before the first quarter ended.
It was another classic sleepy Titans start, just as we have seen all year.
After an Eric Decker drop and another Titans’ punt, the defense finally got a stop. They sniffed out a couple of screens to force the Chiefs to punt for the first time.
For the first time all night, the Titans had something working offensively. Mariota went into the no-huddle and moved into Kansas City territory, but ended the drive with a crushing interception. That was a tough pill to swallow. A touchdown there could have gotten the Titans back in the thick of this one.
Dick LeBeau’s defense came through again though, forcing another punt. The Titans stuck with what worked before, getting downfield again after big grabs from Delanie Walker and Corey Davis. A sack from a delayed blitz would end that progress though.
Mariota appeared to fumble during the sack, but the referees (oddly) ruled forward progress. Ryan Succop nailed a 49 yard field goal to get the Titans on the board.
On the following drive, Johnathan Cyprien delivered a huge hit on Kelce, forcing him off the field. Kelce appeared to fumble, but the league wasn’t interested in reviewing it. It was with under two minutes remaining in the half, so it was on the referees to stop play.
That didn’t happen, so the drive continued. Kansas City took advantage. The immediately got across mid-field with a couple of passes to Demarcus Robinson. A few plays later, Smith hit Robinson for the score with three seconds left in the half.
The Chiefs led 21-3 at halftime.
Finally, the Titans found the endzone. They put together a long drive behind the legs of Derrick Henry, but capped it off in an interesting way. It was Marcus Mariota throwing.... to Marcus Mariota for the score. No, really.
With that incredible moment, the Titans pulled back to within 11.
Tennessee coupled that with a stop on defense. Suddenly things were looking up. The Chiefs punted back to the Titans, but Adoree’ Jackson muffed the punt, killing any momentum that the Titans might have had.
One more time, the defense held for the Titans. Harrison Butker missed a field goal after a quick three and out, so nothing came of the Jackson fumble.
Mariota got the ball back and really looked comfortable in the pocket. The third year quarterback quickly worked the ball down the field, even converting a key 3rd and 10 to Walker. Derrick Henry broke a 35 yard run to bring the Titans right back in this one.
A failed two point conversion kept the Chiefs lead at 21-16.
Once more, the Titans got the stop they needed. Mariota took over and went to work. He converted a 3rd and 8 on the ground when the Titans had to have it. The drive continued with Henry grinding out nine yards.
Then a screen pass to Decker that went nowhere set up a massive 3rd down. Why Robiskie went away from Henry there, I’ll never know.
Luckily, Marcus hit Jonnu Smith to convert. A couple plays later, Mariota hit Decker on a rope to hand the Titans the lead. The two point conversion was no good, but the Titans led 22-21 with six minutes to play.
Still yet, Kansas City needed just a field goal to regain the lead. Alex Smith went to work, looking for the Chiefs’ first points in the second half. With Kelce out of the game, Smith turned to Demetrius Harris in crunch time. He converted 3rd and 4 to keep the Chiefs alive at mid-field with three minutes to play.
The Titans would tighten things up though and force another 3rd and long. Smith needed nine yards, but was sacked. That set up 4th and 9, but Smith was unable to convert.
Tennessee took over with a little over two minutes to play and Derrick Henry immediately picked up a 1st down. Henry gave us all a scare with a near fumble, but he was ruled down after further review.
Derrick Henry converted 3rd and 10 to ice this one, stemming off of a key block from Mariota. What an incredible performance from both.
Mariota sends the titans ahead in the playoffs with this key block. Amazing. pic.twitter.com/bNO74NxR4Y— Terry Lambert (@TLambertFB) January 7, 2018
Henry finished with 23 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown. It was the run game that took this one over and sent the Titans ahead. That’s a big development.