Titans Slug It Out With Chiefs, Come Out on Top
NASHVILLE – This was a boxer versus a puncher.
The Tennessee Titans landed haymakers that had the Kansas City Chiefs on the ropes several times. The Chiefs piled up points – more than any opponent had produced against the Titans defense this season, in fact – with a steady barrage of long drives. Tennessee trailed by more than a touchdown twice, including in the fourth quarter, but got off the deck every time and took the lead in each of the final three quarters.
The final blow was a blocked field goal by second-year Tennessee defensive back Josh Kalu as time expired, which kept Kansas City from scoring any more and preserved a 35-32 victory before a crowd of 68,864 at Nissan Stadium that included plenty of supporters for both sides.
“It was a back and forth slugfest,” Titans defensive lineman DaQuan Jones said. “It was really like a boxing match, man. They score. We score. They score. We score. We got the stop when we needed to. So, that’s all that matters.”
The Titans (5-5) went ahead for the final time on Adam Humphries’ 23-yard touchdown reception with 23 seconds to play. The catch – his only target of the day – capped a four-play, 61-yard drive that the offense executed without the benefit of a timeout. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (hear his thoughts in the attached video) started it with an 18-yard run and added a flourish to Humphries’ touchdown when he darted to the right side for a two-point conversion that meant Kansas City’s final field goal attempt, from 52 yards, could only tie the game.
Despite the obvious sense of urgency, given the situation, that possession was a relative cruise compared to the quick strikes earlier in the contest. Tennessee went in front in the third quarter (20-19) when Derrick Henry’s 68-yard touchdown run capped a two-play 74-yard drive. The first lead change came in the second quarter when linebacker Rashaan Evans returned a fumble 53 yards for a touchdown. Then there was a 52-yard reception by Kalif Raymond that led to the Titans’ first points, a four-play 73-yard touchdown drive.
“[Big plays on] both sides of the ball,” Humphries said. “(Raymond) making a play down the field. (Henry) making some runs, clutch catches. [They were] keeping the momentum and energy on our sideline and just never giving up.”
Kansas City (6-4) was more methodical. Of its seven scoring drives (three touchdowns, four field goals), four included at least 10 plays, six covered more than 50 yards and three lasted more than five minutes. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, playing his first game in three weeks, completed 36 of 50 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
The result was decisive edges for the Chiefs in total yards (530-371), first downs (28-19) and time of possession (37:51-22:09).
“They played a lot of shell coverage, so we were taking what they gave us, and there were a lot of underneath guys open,” Mahomes said. “So, I was trying to get them the ball and move the chains. It kept the offense going. … We were able to get the game going and moving the ball down the field.”
Things turned briefly in the third quarter. Mecole Hardman’s 63-yard touchdown reception made it 29-20 Kansas City with 11:54 to play and looked like it might be the knockout punch.
Instead, the Titans responded with patience. They put together a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that included seven Henry runs, the last from the 1-yard line for his second touchdown of the day. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner ultimately had his best day of the season with 23 carries for 188 yards.
“They’ve got so many weapons,” Henry said. “So I feel like if we were able to control the ball, we were able to move the line of scrimmage, have efficient runs, continue to be physical, me just doing my job and I felt like we had a great chance to win this game.”
They did have a chance. But so did the Chiefs, right up until the final seconds when Kalu shot off the left side of the defense and got his hand on Harrison Butker’s 52-yard attempt.
“We made the plays that we needed to make to keep us in the game,” safety Kevin Byard said. “I kind of made an analogy a couple weeks ago – it’s kind of like NBA basketball. It’s going to come down to the last minute and we have to make sure that we’re staying in it, we’re not getting dejected when they make a big play. We just have a transfer energy back and we make a play.
“It’s like a boxing match, basketball, whatever you want to call it. Just keep throwing our punches until the time runs out.”