This wasn’t the way we wanted the season to end, but it was also at a place we didn’t see coming.
The Titans snapped their four game winning streak against the Chiefs as Kansas City reached its first Super Bowl in 50 years, 30 years older than the day this franchise first became known as the Tennessee Titans. The boys put up a valiant effort in the first half, but a hot streak from the Chiefs offense became too much to overcome, and the defense shut down Derrick Henry in the second half.
So much good came from this season that it’s not even as disappointing as it is exciting to see how much more progress this team can make in 2020. Not too many 9-7 teams reach the Championship Round, and the Titans did that against two of the AFC’s best on the road. Doing it against three would’ve been like winning the Super Bowl altogether (almost), but it was too good to be true.
Even so, the success we saw from guys like Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and A.J. Brown proved this team had an offense to fear after years of inconsistency and years of underwhelming play. Between this team and the Steelers and Raiders, this was the group that deserved to be in the postseason the most, and they showed exactly why. And I’m certain Titans fans are hungry for more.
Keeping this in mind, let’s look at three things we learned from the season ending 35-24 defeat against the Chiefs.
This Season Went Beyond Any Expectations We Had
Obviously failing to reach the Super Bowl is disappointing regardless of where a team’s final stop is, and that’s especially the case for the Titans after leading the Chiefs 17-6 in the second quarter. But the reality is a 2-4 start nearly derailed the team from this opportunity in the first place, and no team with that record through the first six games of a season has made a Super Bowl.
Furthermore they weren’t even expected to get past the Patriots. Forget the all time great upset at Baltimore, New England was supposed to be challenging enough. But they managed to get past both gauntlets and had a legion of football fans admiring them. 9-7 doesn’t guarantee a postseason appearance every year (unless that year is an odd number in Tennessee’s case), so the Titans got hot at the right time and took full advantage in the postseason.
This is not a complete team. There’s issues on the right side of the offensive line that need to be addressed in the offseason, and a few more pieces need to be added on defense for it to become as good as the ones the 49ers and Patriots have. But this was a team that rallied behind its best pieces, striking the Patriots and Ravens at their most vulnerable spots and even scaring the Chiefs for a brief moment.
The future is bright if Ryan Tannehill can sustain his level of play (assuming he’s kept, which is likely) and the aforementioned holes are addressed. And even if next season doesn’t get better, this was still one hell of a season for the Titans.
Patrick Mahomes Was Too Much To Overcome
This isn’t Alex Smith the Titans are dealing with anymore. The Titans could get past Smith in the postseason because his limitations were put to the test when asked to hold the fort for an exhausted defense, but Patrick Mahomes is a completely different beast.
Even in the close win the Titans had against Kansas City at home in the regular season it was obvious (a rusty) Mahomes was giving the Titans defense all it could handle and then some. And since that loss in Week 10 the Chiefs closed the season on a 6-game winning streak thanks in part to a much improved defense.
That defense wasn’t spectacular on Sunday, but it was much better in the rematch, closing in on the Titans’ run heavy success and preventing Ryan Tannehill from creating much else either.
And that’s all Mahomes needed. Regardless if the Titans took away his first read, pressured him out of the pocket, brought stunts, or brought the blitz, the 2018 MVP was constantly finding ways to make plays and keep drives alive for the Chiefs. It’s exactly what happens when an All-Pro talent at quarterback gets an All-Pro offense, and it didn’t matter when he was forced to create outside of structure.
That’s why this was going to have to be a shootout once more if the Titans were going to win this game. Mahomes is as complete of a quarterback as you’ll find in the NFL, and realistically it was going to be near impossible to keep up with him.
The Titans Need Another Edge Rusher
The Titans only sacked Mahomes once all game, so I’m sure you saw complaints about upgrading at edge rusher coming.
Harold Landry had a damn good sophomore season, but he alone is not enough. Cameron Wake will turn 38 on the 30th, and while it would be nice to keep him around as depth and as a mentor, the Titans also need another edge rusher to combine with Landry in order to further compliment Jurrell Casey and Jeffery Simmons on the interior.
With that said, what did you guys learn about Sunday’s defeat? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!