The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans 20-17 in ugly fashion on Sunday night.
For reasons we may never fully comprehend, the Chiefs seem to always struggle with the Titans. Andy Reid was just 2-9 against the Titans before Sunday’s game. The Chiefs have lost two out of their last three meetings to the Titans, including a 27-3 destruction the previous season. But surely, this game would be different, right?
The Chiefs were coming off a bye week, which we all know is Andy Reid’s specialty with his 20-3 record following bye weeks. Titans starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was injured and would not play in the game. And on top of all that, the Chiefs should have a chip on their shoulder from the beatdown they took last year.
Las Vegas even agreed the Chiefs should win as they had them as 12.5-point favorites. But as the great college basketball coach Adolph Rupp once said, “That’s why we play the game, to see who’ll win.”
Chiefs Early Struggles
The game started off well enough for the Chiefs. They received the opening kickoff and marched down the field with ease. Patrick Mahomes completed passes to seven different receivers during the drive and got them down to the eight-yard line. Unfortunately, a holding penalty on Noah Gray stalled the drive, and the Chiefs had to settle for a 23-yard Harrison Butker field goal.
Tennessee started hot with a 48-yard screen pass to tight end Chig Okonkwo down to the Chiefs’ 34-yard line. But a false start and two bad passes led the Titans to punt the ball right back to the Chiefs. The hot start for the offense continued as the Chiefs took the ball 79 yards in just over four minutes. Mecole Hardman finished the drive off with a three-yard touchdown catch. Butker yanked the extra point left, so a Chiefs’ lead that should have been 14-0 was only 9-0.
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That is where things began to unravel for the Chiefs as the Titans ran the ball down the field for a touchdown. Malik Willis and Derrick Henry combined seven runs for 68 yards as Henry finished the drive off with a touchdown. The Chiefs had an ugly drive that led to a punt right back to the Titans and their run game.
Henry took a handoff on the drive’s first play for 56 yards. He finished off the drive a few plays later with his second touchdown of the game to give the Titans a 14-9 lead. The rest of the first half was an ugly series of drives leading to two Chiefs punts and one Titans punt.
Chiefs’ Miscues To Start Second Half
The second half started just as ugly for both teams. Tennessee went three and out after getting the ball first. Bad luck struck the Chiefs on their first drive of the half as Travis Kelce got bumped off his route and a Mahomes pass went off his hands for a Titans interception. The Titans went nowhere and settled for a field goal despite the excellent field position from the interception.
Mahomes and the Chiefs sustained a good drive and got into field goal range to score their first points since their second drive. But Butker over-adjusted after missing his extra point left and pushed the 47-yard field goal wide right. Following that, the teams traded three and outs for five straight series before the Chiefs put together a game-tying touchdown drive.
Chiefs’ Defense Plus Mahomes Magic Equals Comeback Victory
On that drive, Mahomes used his legs to convert a third and 17 as well as a third and nine for the touchdown. Mahomes proved once again that he might not be the fastest quarterback but the most efficient quarterback at running the ball when pass plays fail. The Chiefs had to go for the two-point conversation to tie the game, which they converted on their third attempt thanks to another Mahomes run.
The teams traded punts to end regulation and go into overtime. Mahomes led the Chiefs to an opening drive field goal leaving the defense to close out the game. The defense did this in grand fashion, sacking Willis on back-to-back plays to end the game and give the Chiefs the 20-17 victory.
Mahomes did not have his best game, as he missed several open receivers and overthrew more. But he went into full Grim Reaper mode late in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. He used his legs to make big-time plays when the line faltered, and receivers weren’t getting open. He threw a career-high 68 times for 446 yards while leading the team in rushing with another 63 yards.
Kelce and Juju Smith-Schuster led the team with ten receptions each. Kelce turned his ten catches into 106 yards, while Juju ended up with 88 yards. Hardman hauled in six catches for 79 yards, and Noah Gray caught three for 45 yards, including a remarkable 27-yard catch in overtime. Mahomes connected with a crazy 11 different receivers on the night.
While the offense battled hiccups all game, the defense was dominant. If you take away Henry’s one 56-yard run, he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry the rest of the game. They held Willis to just 5-16 on pass attempts for just 80 yards while sacking him three times. They forced Tennessee to punt on eight of their 12 drives.
The game was not the blowout fans wanted or Vegas expected. It was not as fluid and smooth as fans anticipated coming out of their bye week. Instead, it was a usual ugly, sloppy Chiefs versus Titans game. But this is the NFL, not college football. There are no committees docking points for ugly wins. All that matters is the Chiefs won the game and are now tied for the best record in the AFC.