last night I coudn’t watch the game because i had no wifi, so i’m watching it back today. but I used some of my data prior to going to bed to check the score. the chiefs were up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, but I also saw one tweet before turning my net off and it was either “the chiefs have never lost after a 14 point lead, except to the titans” or “the titans have never won after trailing by 14 points except against the chiefs”…. then you wake up and the score is 22:21 after a 3:21 halftime lead?!!
watching the game though the scoreline reflects what i saw: a very balanced game. while the Titans never got their WRs into play (except the winning Decker TD), the Chiefs struggled to get their ground game going.
On defence the Titans were more consistent, especially the longer the game went on, while the Chiefs had the bigger impact plays. Two big ones came in Q2:
- an interception by Peters on the strongest drive of the Titans, which he returned a good 20-30 yards.
- and a big sack by Johnson on Mariota on 3rd down, where he came running in from the secondary.
The biggest problem for the Chiefs, however, was controlling Derrick Henry who managed to rush for 156 yards and a TD. It is something they haven’t been doing well all season (25th in run D) and which the Titans fully exploited. In Q1 it felt like Henry was the only one to put yards on the board for the Titans, while also recording the second fumble of his career (luckily not recovered by the Chiefs). Besides Walker and Mariota (on the ground) he was the only consistent performer in the 1st half. He was also the biggest impact player at the start of the second half, even mixing into the air game. The Chiefs just couldn’t bring him down or contain him. As if to reward himself, he picked a gap in the Chiefs coverage in Q4 with a nice burst through the middle-left to pick up the second TD of the game for the Titans.
On the other side of the ball the run game never got going except for a Hunt TD. Hunt actually finished the game with only 11 touches(?!) and it felt like good old Alex Smith had more impact in the run game than the rookie who had such a rocket start into the season.
Smith had a pretty solid game while overthrowing on some deep balls and he wasn’t helped by his players who dropped some easy balls in the mid-range and a big run of his in Q4 that was brought back by a penalty. Altogether the play choice felt very conservative with a lot of plays out to Hill and letting him pick up fore-blockers…that worked for about 1.5 Quarters before the Titans figured it out and after that the Chiefs were almost always stopped for minimal yardage of a yard or two on those plays.
Kelce was an effective weapon early on with big pickups through the middle, but then saw less and less of the ball. He did, however, pick up a TD on a ball over the top of the last DB into the endzone.
Without the run or Kelce really involved, the air game was mainly focussed on Hill with the little outballs that I mentioned before. While he was the most standout player for the Chiefs he also dropped 3 passes. Where he excelled, particularly early on, was watching the play in front of him develop to pick up blockers and then burst through. His speed was also used to make some nice trick plays. While you could find Hill all over the field, the problem became that the Titans sussed out the idea behind the fore-blockers and from then on he struggled.
The other two WRs who factored in were Wilson and Robinson. Robinson had a really neat drive with Smith where he moved the ball all the way down the field to the TD on consecutive plays. That finish deserves special mention because he broke the tackle of the safety to make it a walk in.
On the Titans side of things WRs weren’t a factor, as already mentioned. Early on Taylor caught a couple of balls, then in Q2 Matthews got involved a bit but Decker had a drop on 3rd down. Davis picked up a couple of passes here and there but the only real contribution came from Decker when he made a run down the seam and came inside the Safety to catch the ball flying into the endzone. Mariota’s only reliable target through the air was Walker who started getting involved in Q2 but from then was always good for chunks at a time and therefore became Mariota’s only other consistent chess piece besides Henry.
As a whole Mariota made more plays with his legs than his arm early and that didn’t really change too much. He threw for one TD out of three, unless you count throwing to himself as a TD through the air. I think it falls more in the category of fluke, which you don’t say much about as a Titan except thank you. He did have one epic play though that just highlights his commitment (which you also saw in his own runs) where he lead blocked for Henry to close out the game.
I feel like I have to finish this analysis with a short paragraph about the Chiefs though. The game was theirs to give away and that’s exactly what they did, without even playing bad. Exemplary for that in the second half was the special teams recovering a fumbled Titans punt return by Jackson, only to miss the resulting fieldgoal that in the end would have given them the needed points to win.
MVP of the Game
While this is a tough choice between Henry and Mariota, i’m going to go with Henry because his 156 yards and touchdown run really laid the groundwork for the win and the Chiefs just couldn’t stop him. Yes Mariota also made some good yardage on his feet, but he didn’t manage to really get any of his WRs going consistently. Only Delanie Walker managed to make consistent yardage through the air, but even then mainly on small checkdown passes. Props do have to be given to Mariota to his foreblocking for Henry to enable him to get the last first down of the game and effectively closing it out. Everyone will also remember his TD, but let’s be honest: as much as he does well to catch the rebound it was sketchy as hell.