The Tennessee Titans defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 22-21, ending the Chiefs’ season on Saturday afternoon. It’s hard to look at this game and feel positive, at all, but building an 18-point lead includes a lot of good, and it was good, at least at the beginning of the game before it got ugly.
This is the good, the bad, and the ugly:
GOOD: Tyreek Hill responded in a big way after dropping his first two passes
Tyreek Hill dropped two passes to begin the game Saturday afternoon. That trend ended for at least a bit on his third target. Alex Smith found him open, and he caught the football with a wide open lane in front of him. He dashed up the field for 45 yards.
The Chiefs dialed up a play-action corner route for Travis Kelce on the next play, and he took the Chiefs to the 2-yard line. The Chiefs called two Kareem Hunt runs, the second of which was good for the touchdown.
GOOD: Chris Jones caught the flag
In a really tough game, this was a lighthearted moment early on. Chris Jones caught a penalty flag out of the air.
GOOD: Too many weapons
The Chiefs spent their second scoring drive showcasing all of their weapons, which the Titans couldn’t keep up with.
Alex Smith hit Tyreek Hill and Albert Wilson gains of 26 and 18 yards, respectively, and finished it with a beautiful pass to Travis Kelce in the end zone for his first career playoff receiving touchdown (I know, hard to believe).
Kelce spiked the football a la Rob Gronkowski. It used to be 1-2 in terms of NFL tight ends. It is now 1 and 1a.
BAD: I needed that football, KPL
Kevin Pierre-Louis and Marcus Peters combined to knock the ball away from Derrick Henry, and as Pierre-Louis went to grab the football, it bounced out of bounds, and the Titans kept possession.
I needed that ball kevin— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) January 6, 2018
The Chiefs would have had the football at the Titans 28-yard line, and as you look back, maybe a 21-point lead that early demoralizes Tennessee enough to end the game right there.
BAD: Witzmann holding call leads to offensive creativity/momentum disappearing
A Tyreek Hill reverse gave the Chiefs a first down on the first play of their next offensive drive (Alex Smith wound up blocking on the play), but it quickly stalled thanks to a holding penalty by Bryan Witzmann.
This led to Matt Nagy and the Chiefs calling three short pass plays, which did not work. The Chiefs punted the football away. The Chiefs finished with eight penalties for 68 yards.
GOOD: Marcus Peters, interception
Cornerback Marcus Peters was involved in plays involving the actual football on back-to-back defensive drives—first the aforementioned almost-fumble recovery, then a play that only a player with the football instincts of Peters can make.
Peters was covering No. 84, Corey Davis, while still keeping his eyes on Mariota the entire time. When Mariota released the ball, Peters came off Davis to intercept a pass intended for tight end Delanie Walker, whom he wasn’t covering.
Peters continued his trend of making important plays since returning from his suspension.
GOOD: DERRICK JOHNSON
The Titans were finally beginning to get into an offensive rhythm until third-and-4 at the Kansas City 22-yard line.
That was when 35-year-old Derrick Johnson had a lane right through the offensive line and absolutely smoked Marcus Mariota. Cue up Jim Ross.
UGLY: What was that call?
Marcus Mariota fumbled the football on the play, which Justin Houston recovered, but it was ruled a stoppage of forward progress, which cannot be challenged. This was the first of two questionable forward progress calls on the evening.
The Titans kicked a field goal to get on the board.
UGLY: Travis Kelce, clearly concussed
Travis Kelce took a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit from Jayon Brown, which seemed to knock him out on his feet (there was also no call on this play).
Kelce should not come back in today pic.twitter.com/66ECVw4T5k— Cody Tapp (@codybtapp) January 6, 2018
When Kelce tried to rise to his feet, he almost fell over and had to be held up by right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
I get what is at stake for the Chiefs, but this was the type of play in which a player should be ruled out for rest of the game almost immediately.
With hard hit to temple and visual evidence of staggering, @tkelce not likely to return to #TENvsKC. Remember, this is 1st game with additional Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants in place. https://t.co/doVDQVxLoV— David J. Chao, MD (@ProFootballDoc) January 6, 2018
The Chiefs announced that Kelce was done for the game in the third quarter, and they missed him dearly in the second half.
GOOD: The two-minute drill to end the half
Before that, Alex Smith did a nice job getting the Chiefs on the board before heading into the locker room.
With the second quarter ticking away and one timeout left, Smith found Demarcus Robinson, who willed his way into the end zone on the Chiefs’ final chance to score before they would have to take their final timeout and kick the field goal.
Robinson’s first career touchdown came in the postseason, giving the Chiefs a 21-3 at halftime.
Demarcus Robinson picked a good time for his first career TD.— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) January 6, 2018
GOOD: Marcus Peters loves refs
UGLY: The “Mariota self-pass game”
The Titans started with the football in the third quarter and the drive they were putting together was rather concerning. The Chiefs defense was missing tackles, and Derrick Henry had 64 yards from scrimmage.
But as the Titans approached the Chiefs’ goal line, it seemed as though the defense would force a field goal.
Then, on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Marcus Mariota had no one to throw to, so he threw to himself. No, seriously.
Mariota scrambled to his left and forced a pass into the end zone. Darrelle Revis deflected it right back into the hands of Mariota, who scored the touchdown. Mariota actually received credit for a passing touchdown and receiving touchdown on the play.
BAD: Chiefs can’t take advantage of fortunate circumstances
The Chiefs punted to Titans rookie Adoree’ Jackson, and with Jehu Chesson running at him, Jackson muffed the punt and the Chiefs recovered.
The only problem with that is the Chiefs went three-and-out at the Titans 30-yard line, and kicker Harrison Butker did something he doesn’t often do with 48-yard field goals.
DOUBLE-UGLY: Chiefs defense caught completely off guard
...followed by Derrick Henry on the next drive:
Derrick Henry eats 6, 21-16 Chiefs over Titans. pic.twitter.com/O5yGihtIBr— John Andrew (@Intern_John) January 7, 2018
No one even touched Derrick Henry on this 35-yard run, and the Titans cut the lead to 21-16 after they missed a two-point conversion.
I thought Mike Mularkey’s call for the Titans to go for two was a little strange at that point in the game with so much time left, and it didn’t pay off. There was also another questionable forward-progress on the play.
Had forward progress not been called, Daniel Sorensen would have scored a two-point conversion the other way, giving the Chiefs a late lead.
BAD: Orson Charles’ drop
What followed on offense didn’t help. With Travis Kelce out of the game, Alex Smith targeted Orson Charles at the Kansas City 46-yard line on third-and-2, needing a catch for the first down.
Charles dropped the football on a short pass any tight end should make. Titans ball.
BAD: Just when I thought Eric Decker had the yips
At the beginning of the game, I thought eight-year veteran wide receiver Eric Decker might have the yips.
Decker dropped three passes in the Titans’ finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars and he had another one when the Titans needed him on third-and-4 early in the second quarter.
Then he caught the game-winning touchdown on a beautifully thrown ball by Marcus Mariota.
Without Travis Kelce, the Chiefs offense seemed completely out of sync and could not rally back, and that ended the season.