Titans rally from 18 down, stun Chiefs


Call it what you will: an implosion by the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half, a failure of officiating or a great performance by the Titans defense supported by a great effort by Marcus Mariota; regardless the Titans are moving onto the divisional round. A new era of Tennessee Titans football started, one that enjoys playoff success and sports a refuse-to-lose mentality. But before the first half ended Alex Smith had found Demarcus Robinson to put the Chiefs up 21-3 going into the half. All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce left with a concussion in the first half and big defensive tackle Chris Jones left with an ankle injury in the second half. If the Titans had no answer for Kelce, they won't have a clue with Rob Gronkowski, the best tight end in the game.

The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since January 1994. He capped a 91-yard TD drive to start the second half in the freakish fashions: Mariota threw a TD pass to himself. That was the turning point in the game.

While the Titans have little if any "style", defensively they allowed only 3.6 yards per carry, finishing fourth lowest.

The Titans are now 2-14 in the Mariota era when trailing by 14-plus points, with both wins coming against the Chiefs. Fortunately, referee Jeff Triplette blew his whistle before Mariota lost the ball. The other cost the Chiefs two points because it happened on a two-point conversion. He had been one of the better kickers all season but missed from 48 yards. And the Titans blanketed Tyreek Hill whenever he touched the ball, and they stacked the box to slow Hunt down in obvious rushing situations.

The game victor came when Mariota delivered a golden rope to Eric Decker on a skinny post for the go-ahead 22-yard touchdown.

They entered the season with what supposed to be an elite offense, with two Grade A running backs, an up-and-comer at quarterback and one of the top rated offensive lines. They haven't played the Patriots since the 2015 season and the two have squared off just seven times in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era.

The Chiefs drove past midfield on their final possession with more than two minutes remaining but Smith's fourth-down pass for Albert Wilson was incomplete. After that, Henry salted the game away.

In Marcus Mariota's first playoff game the number 1 came up a lot.

RETIREMENT QUESTIONS: Chiefs linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali could consider hanging it up after another letdown. They ought to have considered punting on that final drive and then try to establish good field position on the next drive. He had a first-quarter touchdown, but the Chiefs run game ground to a halt. While the Titans do have a weak secondary, the balance kept the Titans on their heels early on. They might be getting Kyle Van Noy and Alan Branch back and have James Harrison on board, but stopping the Titans' running game will be a big challenge.

Finally, the Titans pulled ahead on Mariota's strike to Decker, and that led to more controversy from the officials. Furthermore, they should have reviewed the fumble on the play Kelce got injured. The Titans brought pressure from all places harassing and hurrying Kansas City and it's lethal passing attack into finishing with 33 yards the second half.

Unlike Belichick, who has won five Super Bowls and made two other appearances in the title game, Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs, the worst such coaching record in National Football League history.

Inquiring minds wanted to know who called the plays for the Kansas City Chiefs' offense during the second half Saturday. Delanie Walker was once again an ever-present threat in the middle of the field with six catches for 74 yards. He was willing to take shots down the field with Decker and Davis, which he needed to do to win.