I haven’t screamed louder and felt more joy as a Titans fan than after today’s game in a long, long time. The Titans snuck out a win at Arrowhead Stadium, one of the toughest places to play, on the back of a Ryan Succop 53 yard walk off field goal. The Titans remain in second place in the AFC South, but they still control their own destiny. If they win next week in Jacksonville and then at home against the Houston Texans in Week 17, then the Titans will be division champions and will host a home playoff game for the first time since 2008.
This game did not start well. The Titans punted on the opening possession and failed to recover a muffed punt return from Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill. The electric Hill proceeded to burst through the Titans defense on a 68 yard designed run, putting the Chiefs up seven quickly. The Titans were able to move down the field on the ensuing possession, and looked poised to get right back in the game. Marcus Mariota found Rishard Matthews for a long gain into Chiefs territory, but Matthews had the ball knocked loose at the opposing five yard line. The Chiefs recovered the ball and moved it forward towards midfield.
Alex Smith found Jeremy Maclin for a 44 yard gain on the next play, and then took it upon himself to score on an untouched 10 yard scramble three plays later. The Titans looked deflated, and this was looking like an imminent blowout, especially after the Titan couldn’t quickly respond on the next drive. But as has been the case many times this year, the Titans just didn’t give up. At the turn of the second quarter, the Titans drove down the field on the churning legs of Derrick Henry, whow as magnificent on Sunday. Henry ripped off chunk gains, Matthews caught a deep pass, and Henry finished it all off with a powerful four yard run.
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The Titans and Chiefs continued to swap ineffective drives before the half ended, but the Chiefs were able to muster a field goal before halftime. Mariota and Smith traded interceptions early in the third quarter. Smith’s was particularly egregious, as LeShaun Sims easily read his eyes in the end zone and took points off the board. The outlook for the game wasn’t looking promising heading into the fourth quarter, but the Titans defense was keeping the team in the game.
The Titans began to run no huddle to start the fourth quarter, and it paid off with a field goal drive to cut the lead to seven. The defense held tight on the Chiefs next drive and got the ball back to the offense with just under eight minutes remaining. The Titans went on a quick but controlled pace, converting two crucial third downs by way of Delanie Walker receptions. On fourth and five with just four minutes left in the game from the Chiefs’ 16 yard line, Mariota floated a beautiful ball to DeMarco Murray on a swing route. The defender had no chance and Murray came down with the ball. Henry punched it in from the one yard line on the next play.
Tie ball game after the extra point, right? Not quite. Mike Mularkey wasn’t feeling overtime or letting the Chiefs drive down the field for a game winning field goal. Trusting his offense in an aggressive but admirable manner, Mularkey went for two to take the lead. Unfortunately, the play call left a lot to be desired. A rollout that was designed to be a throwback failed and the Titans remained down 16-17. The game wasn’t over, though. But the Titans needed to force a three and out. For the second straight week, the defense came through when the team needed it most. They stopped the Chiefs and got the ball back to their franchise quarterback with one minute remaining.
Operating quickly, Mariota found Matthews, then Walker, and then Walker again. Mariota spiked the ball with five seconds remaining at the Chiefs’ 35 yard line. Ryan Succop, a former Chief, came on for a 53 yard field goal to try to win the game. On the first try, Andy Reid for some reason tried to ice Succop. Succop proceeded to miss the kick short, but it didn’t matter as time was already called. On the next try, Succop obliterated a drive down the middle of the goalposts. The ball barely sneaked by, but Succop had given the Titans a most improbable victory.
I’ve ragged on Mike Mularkey a fair share. He still had some questionable play calls and decisions in this game. But he and Jon Robinson have completely changed the identity and culture of this team. The Titans are no longer a laughingstock, a blowout waiting to happen. This team fights until the end and doesn’t give up. And they are now two wins away from the playoffs. 2016 might end up bringing us some good, after all!