The Titans 2016 rookie class was vital in the win
Every where you turned on Sunday, a Titans rookie was making a play. First round pick Jack Conklin stonewalled red-hot pass rusher Justin Houston on several occasions and barely allowed any pressure. Second round rookie Derrick Henry ripped off chunk gains all game and found the end zone twice. Other second round rookie Austin Johnson was stout in run support and got pressure on a few plays. Third round rookie Kevin Byard continued his great season, helping to limit Travis Kelce to just 41 yards and getting stops in the run game. Fifth round rookie LeShaun Sims was outstanding for the second straight week, intercepting Alex Smith in the end zone and providing a much needed upgrade to the secondary.
Tajae Sharpe and Aaron Wallace also played part time roles in the win. It’s a testament to the stellar drafting by Jon Robinson and great development by Mike Mularkey and the Titans coaches that these rookies were huge on Sunday. Rookies aren’t meant to have big impacts in their first year, especially third and fifth rounders. But on Sunday, and really for the whole season, most of the Titans rookies have been some of the best players on the field. It’s fantastic to see.
Marcus Mariota battled back, like he has all season
It wasn’t the prettiest game for Mariota. In fact, it started out horribly. He moved the Titans down the field before Rishard Matthews’ costly fumble, and it didn’t get better from there. He fumbled carelessly in the second quarter and then threw an interception in the early parts of the third quarter, granted it was a great interception by Ron Parker. The Titans passing game seemed lost. But then the fourth quarter rolled around and Mariota began to find a rhythm. Not surprisingly, he began to find it when the Titans were running no huddle, shotgun plays due to being down 10 points late in the game.
Mariota never gave up in this game. He kept going through his reads and forcing throws when they needed to be forced. He didn’t let his two turnovers define and affect his play for the rest of the game, and it resulted in him leading three scoring drives in the fourth quarter and winning us a crucial game.
This team can make the playoffs and make noise there
If the win against the Denver Broncos wasn’t enough of a statement game, this one surely was. The Chiefs came into this game having won 20 out of their last 23 regular season game. They pride themselves on taking the ball away on defense and playing smart, keep-away football on offense. On Sunday, they did just that. They forced three turnovers from the Titans and jumped out to a 14-0, then 17-7 lead. But the Titans didn’t let them pull away. Even when the Titans were still down 10 going into the fourth quarter, the defense continued to force punts, not allowing the Chiefs to move the chains and melt the clock. The offense began to find itself and reeled off three scoring drives that resulted in a massive win.
The Chiefs are currently 10-4 and the Broncos are 8-6. That’s two straight wins against two playoff caliber teams. If the Titans can do that, then they can win at least one home playoff game. They might get the Chiefs again in the first round, and they’ve already proven to be able to beat them at Arrowhead. They can surely beat them at Nissan Stadium. The playoffs are a lottery ticket, anyway. A team just needs to get hot when the time comes. And right now, the Titans are hot.