Final score: Kansas City Chiefs 35, Tennessee Titans 24
The Kansas City Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl.
Behind a ludicrous performance from their quarterback — and defensive adjustments from Steve Spagnuolo — Clark Hunt gets to hoist his father’s trophy for the first time.
A 28-0 run from the Chiefs offense will be the story of the game, but a stretch of defensive plays that kept Derrick Henry and the Titans offense from imposing their will should not go unnoticed.
After a slow first drive, Patrick Mahomes got in the swing of things, hitting Tyreek Hill on a deep pass after scrambling to avoid pressure. A couple of touch passes later, the Chiefs found themselves in the end zone. Mahomes looked comfortable on the third drive, rolling away from pressure and finding Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson for big gains.
Just before the half, Mahomes would not be denied on a 27-yard scramble for a score to give the Chiefs their first lead of the game — once again killing a defense with his feet. Mahomes was sharp throughout the game, dissecting the Titans secondary easily; the majority of the Titans’ stops came from third-down drops. His late touchdown pass while rolling right was a phenomenal throw across his body to put the game out of reach.
Damien Williams saw the majority of the running back snaps, converting some short- yardage runs to sustain drives. Williams was also a significant part of the passing game, catching back-to-back passes of 17 and eight yards late in the first half.
In the second half, Andy Reid started running the ball more. Williams converted some tough third downs — including one from a two-back set with Darwin Thompson where Williams was aligned as the up-back. Williams was rewarded with a goal-to-go carry that he punched in to make it an 11-point lead. Thompson got his first carry of the game on a bounce in the third quarter that he converted a first down.
Travis Kelce came up with a massive fourth down conversion in Titans territory during the second drive, finding space in the zone and sitting for an easy pitch and catch. Late in the half, he had a fantastic third-down catch-and-run that helped extend the drive.
Mecole Hardman got lots of early snaps and was used in lots of orbit and jet motions. He got a touch pass during the second drive, forcing the Titans to keep an eye on him throughout the game. Hardman made a great block on a third-quarter run, getting in front of the running back to help gain extra yardage.
Hill lined up in the slot for his second touchdown of the day — an easy fade route to torch the nickel cornerback. But Hill had a bad drop on another third down, forcing the Chiefs to punt on their first drive of the second half.
Watkins had a couple of nice first-half catches, but none bigger than a third-and-3 conversion for 11 yards. Watkins had another great third-down catch, dragging his toes on a play originally ruled an incompletion. Mahomes leaned on Watkins in the fourth quarter, when he came up with two first-down conversions to extend a drive and milk more time from the clock. He finished off that drive, shaking off a defensive hold and going vertical for a 60-yard touchdown that iced the game.
Chris Jones was active after working through the calf injury that kept him out in the Divisional round. The Chiefs opted to utilize him on passing downs — and he was immediately successful in that role. In the Titans’ first drive, Jones forced a pressure that helped the Chiefs red zone defense tighten up and force a field goal. But then he had a costly penalty on a third-and-5, jumping offsides and giving the Titans a new set of downs. Jones also had a big run stuff right before halftime.
During the second drive of the game, Frank Clark jumped offsides on third-and-long, leaving the Titans a third-and-short conversion. He also came up big with a looping pressure on third-and-long right before halftime — plus a run stuff and a forced holding penalty that helped to end the Titans first second-half drive. After multiple pressures late in the game, Clark closed down the contest with a big fourth-down sack.
Terrell Suggs blew up a run for no gain late in the first half, allowing the Chiefs offense to get the ball back. Tanoh Kpassagnon came up big on a stunt in the fourth quarter, sacking the quarterback on third down to get off the field. Late in the fourth quarter, he also logged another sack — and after the two-minute warning, had a great pass breakup while carrying a receiver downfield in coverage.
The Titans took advantage of the Chiefs linebackers in coverage, abusing them with play-action passing. On the Titans second touchdown, Damien Wilson was caught crashing on the run, which allowed an eligible tackle to creep out into the end zone for an easy catch. But Wilson flashed late in the game, coming up with a tackle for loss on a pass to Henry.
Bashaud Breeland was beaten on an early play-action dig route, but came back on a drag in the second drive to break up a pass that was initially ruled an interception. But in the second quarter, he gave the Titans life with a costly defensive third down pass interference penalty. Charvarius Ward had a great recovery play early in the game, getting back to shrink Ryan Tannehill’s throwing window, forcing an incompletion.
Tyrann Mathieu came out fired up — almost forcing a fumble early in the game and forcing a loss on a swing pass during the Titans’ third drive. The Honey Badger was great throughout the game — and a third-down pass breakup helped send the Chiefs to Miami.
Daniel Sorensen continued to be aggressive, laying some hits on Derrick Henry and a bone-crushing hit on Tannehill during a second-half scramble. Sorensen flashed again with a major tackle for loss — and then almost intercepted a pass on a nice sink in Cover 2. He did, however, give up a late touchdown after slipping on the receiver’s break.
Special teams play was largely good, but a fake punt late in the third quarter — one that most people saw coming — was the catalyst that allowed a Titans scoring drive. The play went for 28 yards and put the Chiefs defense back on the field after what had been a great stop.