WHAT. A. WIN.
The Titans got up off the mat and saved hope for their 2019 season with a thrilling 35-32 comeback win over the Chiefs. The defense couldn’t stop the electric Patrick Mahomes who went 36 of 50 for 446 yards and 3 touchdowns, including an incredible 63 yard strike to rookie speedster Mecole Hardman for what appeared to be the clincher in the 4th quarter.
However, that didn’t matter thanks to the heroics of several Titans in addition to a fortunate break when a premature field goal snap cost the Chiefs a chance to stretch the lead from 5 to 8 ahead of Tennessee’s game winning drive. Like we always say though, a win is a win, and a win against an outstanding Chiefs team without the services of Malcolm Butler, Jurrell Casey, Corey Davis, Jayon Brown, and Delanie Walker absolutely counts for something.
The dramatic win combined with a Colts home loss to the Dolphins leaves the Titans just a half game out of the second wildcard spot as they head into their Week 11 bye week. The road ahead is still tough, but the Titans control their own destiny with games remaining against the Colts and Raiders as well as two with the division-leading Texans. We can worry about all that later though, let’s get to winners and losers from Titans 35, Chiefs 32.
Derrick Henry: Winner
What can even be said about King Henry? He was simply fantastic in this game, rushing for 188 yards on 23 carries and 2 touchdowns, including this 68-yard romp through the Chiefs secondary.
He is the engine that makes the Titans offense go and I’d expect them to lean heavily on the big back moving forward. We saw what his late season break out in 2018 did for this team. With the weather turning colder and the bodies getting more banged up, we are now entering Henry Season.
David Long and Rashaan Evans: Winners
Before the game I told people that the Titans would probably need a non-offensive touchdown to get the win in this game and that’s what they got when rookie linebacker David Long punched the ball out of Damien Williams’ arms and into Rashaan Evans’ path for the scoop and score.
It was a great play by both linebackers. Long with effort to rally to the ball and the smarts to punch it lose, Evans with the quick scoop and athletic run to the end zone.
Long played a bunch of snaps today with Jayon Brown out, finishing tied for 3rd on the team in tackles with 8. He was active and around the ball frequently. It was a really nice showing from the rookie 6th round pick. This 2019 draft class is making a very early positive impression on the field.
Taylor Lewan: Loser
The Titans left tackle deserves some credit for helping bulldoze a path for Henry’s 188 yard day and he held up in pass protection well, but the terrible penalties continued. For a second straight week Lewan completely sabotaged a Titans drive with back to back dumb penalties, first a personal foul for a shove after the whistle, then a holding penalty on a screen to Jonnu Smith. He would later have a terrible false start.
I don’t know what the Titans have to do to get through to Lewan, but it needs to happen and it needs to happen now. Credit to rookie receiver A.J. Brown for letting Lewan hear about it after the penalties as caught on CBS’s cameras here.
The Titans need players who will hold others accountable. Maybe Brown can be that guy despite his young age.
Lewan simply can’t keep killing drives with penalties. As Tony Romo pointed out on the broadcast, the Titans aren't explosive enough offensively to overcome penalties like that.
Harold Landry: Winner
Another week, another sack for Landry. This time he whipped Chiefs left tackle Cam Erving with a two handed swipe move followed by that trademark bend around the edge for his 7th sack of the season.
Landry continues to make at least one big play per week for this defense. His development in season two has been one of the more promising things about this year.
Logan Ryan: Loser
It’s very rare for Ryan to end up in this category, but even the good players have bad days, and this was one for Ryan. He struggled to hang with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce all day and then missed a tackle on Mecole Hardman’s long touchdown that looked like the back breaker. Ryan will want to forget this one.
Anthony Firkser, Kalif Raymond, and Adam Humphries: Winner
With Corey Davis and Delanie Walker both out for this game, the Titans needed some pass catchers to step up and these guys did. Firkser made a great diving grab for a touchdown early in the game before adding another key catch on the game winning drive late.
Raymond had just one catch, but it was a big one as he hauled in a 52-yard bomb from Ryan Tannehill to set up Firkser’s touchdown a few plays later.
His speed is an element the Titans were missing on offense early in the season. It’s good to see his feel good story continuing in the NFL.
Finally, Adam Humphries also had just one catch, but when it’s a game winner, you get mentioned as a winner here.
Humphries won against man coverage with a sick route and then powered into the end zone for the score. Huge moment for him in his first season as a Titan.
Ryan Succop: Loser
Succop didn’t attempt a field goal today as the Titans red zone success continued, but he went just 3 for 4 on extra points. The miss nearly came back to haunt them late. Maybe the bye week will help get the veteran kicker back on track. They’ll need him down the stretch.
Joshua Kalu: Winner
Kalu returned off IR a couple weeks ago. He was kept around specifically for his ability to contribute on special teams and boy did he contribute today. Kalu blocked Harrison Butker’s attempt to tie the game as time expired, sending Nissan Stadium into a raucous celebration.
All 53 spots of the roster matter and Kalu’s play here is a great example of that.
Ryan Tannehill: Winner
The final stat line is just OK — 13 of 19 for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns — and he did have a costly fumble early in the game, but he came up clutch with his third game winning drive in four games as the Titans starting quarterback. He also added a few tough, hard-nosed runs to pick up first downs and the two point conversion.
Tannehill missed some throws, took some bad sacks, and the offense really did run through Henry first and foremost, but 9.5 yards per attempt and a gutsy game winning drive puts Tannehill in the winners category for me. He’s now 3-1 as the starter and the Titans have scored at least 20 points in each game. The plays he made down the stretch in this one will only add to the trust from his coaching staff and teammates.
Mike Vrabel and Arthur Smith: Winners
Vrabel and Smith have taken their share of lumps recently, and rightfully so, but both deserve credit for their work in this game. Smith’s offense produced scoring drives of 73, 74, 75, and 61 yards in this game, piling up 371 total yards on just 49 plays. He stuck with the run game, even when the Titans fell behind and was rewarded for it. He also gave Dion Lewis zero touches for the first time in his Titans career. It’s a step in a positive direction and with a bye week to self study and make adjustments, there is at least some hope for this offense moving forward.
I also thought Vrabel did a good job managing the game in this one. The Titans caught some breaks to be sure — namely the botched snap — but he put them in a position to make those breaks count.
Vrabel needs to make this bye week count. The Titans have a chance to rest some banged up bodies and get some key players healthy before hosting the Jaguars in a couple weeks. They also need to take a long look in the mirror to address some of the recurring issues that have plagued this team through the first ten weeks. All their goals are still within reach, but it’ll take a tremendous finish to reach them.
Titans fans who went to Nissan Stadium: Winners
There weren’t a ton of them according to my TV screen, but those that did turn up probably had a pretty good time. The Titans have produced some incredible home games over the past two seasons and this one is up there with the very best of them.
I can’t say I blame the fans that sold their tickets to Chiefs fans necessarily. This game was always going to be the matchup that netted the biggest returns for season ticket holders and with the prices of seats lots of people wouldn’t be able to afford the tickets if they didn’t sell a few of the higher profile games off for profit. That being said, it is getting old seeing Nissan Stadium bathed in the opponent’s colors every time a “national” team comes into town.
The negativity surrounding this team remains high and I don’t expect this win to magically erase that. Expectations were high and they haven’t been met. However, it looks like we will be seeing meaningful football late into this season for the fourth straight year. Whether or not they can get hot and turn this into something more remains to be seen, but this game was a good reminder that this team is capable of hanging with anybody in the NFL.