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Week 18 Game Recap: Tennessee Titans 22, Kansas City Chiefs 21


What you need to know

Tennessee Titans

The Titans offense started sluggishly but finished strong as Marcus Mariota led them to three straight touchdown drives in the second half to put up 19 unanswered points on their way to their first playoff win in 14 years. Marcus Mariota made big plays when it counted, especially with his legs as he rushed for 46 yards and picked up a number of critical third downs. Mariota's first career post-season touchdown pass ended up being to himself on a wild play from six-yards out. He would later find Eric Decker in the fourth quarter from 22-yards out for the game-winning touchdown. Delanie Walker would lead the team in receiving as he was Mariota's go-to option on third downs. Derrick Henry was the star of this offense though, amassing 191 total yards and a touchdown as he had his way with the Chiefs defense all day long.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Tennessee Titans 22-21, in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday. Quarterback Alex Smith completed 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, while also rushing four times for 13 yards. Running back Kareem Hunt rushed 11 times for 42 yards and a touchdown, and caught three passes for five yards. Tyreek Hill led the Chiefs in receiving, catching seven passes for 85 yards. Tight end Travis Kelce got off to a fast start catching four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with an injury. Kelce’s absence drastically affected the Chiefs ability to move the ball and they were unable to put any points on the board in the second half.

Tennessee Titans

QB Marcus Mariota, 70 offensive snaps, Pass: 19 - 31 - 205 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 8 - 46 - 0, Rec: 1 - 6 - 1 (1 targets)
Marcus Mariota got off to a very slow start in his first ever playoff appearance. He looked to have a lack of focus as he was off-target on a number of his passes, including a very poorly thrown ball into double-coverage intended for Delanie Walker that resulted in his first and only interception of the game. Mariota also took a massive hit just before the two-minute warning, after which it was surprising to see he could even walk based on how hard he went down. It wasn't until late in the first half that the Titans offense actually did something, with Mariota making a few nice passes to set up a long field goal going into halftime. The second half was a big turnaround for Mariota, as he led three consecutive touchdown drives of at least 60 yards each to put up 19 unanswered points on the Chiefs. Mariota used his legs to convert a huge third-and-nine on their first drive of the second half as he tucked it to run 11 yards up the middle before smartly sliding to avoid contact. Later on that same drive, Mariota had another nice run on a designed keeper he took up the middle for 10 yards to get the Titans to the four-yard line. One of the wildest plays of the season then capped off this spectacular drive as Mariota scrambled around in the pocket, first going right, then switching directions to the left side of the field before launching a pass just as he appeared to be crossing the line of scrimmage. Mariota's pass was batted by a leaping Darrelle Revis, but the ball deflected right back into the hands of Mariota before he dove towards the pylon for what would inevitably be ruled as a touchdown. Mariota's first career post-season touchdown pass ended up actually being to himself! One of his best runs of the day, though, came in the fourth quarter as Mariota was facing third-and-nine with no open receivers. With no options, he decided to take it down the sideline himself, cutting back towards the middle of the field to barely stay in bounds for a 17-yard run and the first down. Later in the drive, Mariota overthrew a wide-open Corey Davis down the sideline, but he followed that play up with an impressive throw to Eric Decker for a 22-yard touchdown to take the lead for the Titans. As the Titans tried to wind down the game inside of the two-minute warning, while not a typical play for a quarterback, it is worth noting that Mariota got his hands dirty here by throwing an impressive block for Derrick Henry to set up the 22-yard run that would inevitably put the win on ice for the Titans.

RB Derrick Henry, 68 offensive snaps, Rush: 23 - 156 - 1, Rec: 2 - 35 - 0 (2 targets)
Derrick Henry's performance last week was night and day versus what we saw from him in Week 17 against the Jaguars. With 23 carries and two receptions, Henry amassed 191 total yards and a touchdown on what ended up being the best overall game of his career. Henry ran for seven or more yards three times before halftime as he had a respectable half, but he did put the ball on the ground once near the end of the first quarter. Thankfully for Henry, the fumble was knocked out of bounds by a Chiefs defender. Henry really got going in the second half though, where 149 of his total yards came. He started with a bang by hauling in a screen pass that he effortlessly took for 29 yards to move along the Titans' first touchdown drive of the game. Henry followed that screen pass up with a 13-yard run, evading at least three tackles before spinning for an extra few yards at the end of the play. Henry would have capped off this spectacular drive with a goal-line plunge for the touchdown, but Delanie Walker got called for a false start that negated the score. Henry did manage to find the end zone later in this game though as he had a magnificent 35-yard run early in the fourth quarter. With the help of a late audible to by Marcus Mariota to switch the run from the right to left side, Henry read his blocks perfectly as he weaved his way into the open field, accelerating beyond the Chiefs safety pursuing him as he made his way to the end zone. Henry then did an admirable job putting this game on ice for the Titans as he accounted for two big first downs within the final three minutes, including a 22-yard run with 1:52 remaining that virtually wrapped up the win.

WR Corey Davis, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 35 - 0 (7 targets)
Corey Davis finished second in targets last week with seven total, hauling in four of them for just 35 yards. His longest play of the game went for 12 yards on a short route designed for Davis on which the slot receiver screened the cornerback on Davis, leaving Davis open to haul in the pass and fight downfield for some extra yards after the catch. Davis should have had a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter as he was wide open running down the sideline, but Marcus Mariota grossly overthrew him before hitting Eric Decker with the touchdown strike on the very next play.

WR Eric Decker, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 21 - 1 (5 targets)
Eric Decker's struggles continued early in this game as he couldn't haul in either of his first two targets while committing a very ugly drop early in the second quarter. This pass was thrown right at Decker and bounced off his hands on a play that would have converted a third down for the Titans. Decker would redeem himself in a big way later in this game though as he ran an impressive post pattern right down the seam and hauled in a perfectly thrown pass with a defender hanging on his back as he crossed the goal line. This touchdown reception was just Decker's second of the year, but it was one of the biggest touchdowns of the season for the Titans as this inevitably would be the game-winner that moved them forward in the playoffs.

WR Rishard Matthews, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 15 - 0 (2 targets)
Rishard Matthews was targeted only twice, hauling in one catch for 15 yards midway through the second quarter while lined up against Darrelle Revis. Matthews was facing coverage from Marcus Peters for most of the day, so it was tough for him to get open. Matthews now has just four receptions in his last three games as he is beginning to fall under the radar for the run-heavy Titans offense that is focusing more on Delanie Walker in big passing situations.

TE Delanie Walker, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 74 - 0 (8 targets)
Delanie Walker finished as the top receiver for the Titans, leading the team in targets, receptions, and yards by a very wide margin. Walker made some big-time plays early in this game as he hauled in four of his six receptions for 51 of his 74 yards before halftime. His longest play of the game on a simple slant route down the middle that Walker took for 22 yards midway through the second quarter. Walker may have only had two receptions in the second half, but both were extremely important plays with each catch coming on a third down. The first was a hook route for 14 yards on third-and-10 to keep the Titans' second touchdown drive alive. His next and what would be his final reception of the game was on third-and-three where Walker simply ran to the first down marker and turned around, easily nabbing a well-thrown ball from Mariota before falling forward for what would be a nine-yard gain.


Kansas City Chiefs

QB Alex Smith, 58 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 33 - 264 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 13 - 0
Alex Smith completed 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, while also rushing four times for 13 yards. Smith got off to a hot start, leading the Chiefs to a 21-3 lead at halftime before being stonewalled by an aggressive Titans defense in the second half. This could very well be the last game that Smith plays in a Chiefs uniform, and it is one that is going to leave a bad taste in his mouth as the game was there for the taking for Kansas City. Smith came out firing in the first half, leading the Chiefs to a touchdown on their second and third possessions, and then scoring another touchdown right before halftime. Smith was able to find Tyreek Hill for a 45 yard pass in which Hill ran a crossing route from the left side of the formation. Smith hit him perfectly in stride allowing Hill to get to the outside and turn the ball up the field. On the very next play, Smith connected with Travis Kelce for a 27 yard gain that set up a one yard run by Kareem Hunt. Smith had success attacking the Titans cornerbacks on crossing and drag routes where Kelce, Hill and DeMarcus Robinson were able to use their speed to beat their defenders to the outside. Smith came back with a touchdown pass to Travis Kelce on the Chiefs second possession, as well as Robinson on another crossing route right before half time. However, once Kelce went out with an injury, the Titans defense buckled down, put pressure on Smith and bullied the Chiefs receivers at the line of scrimmage. It was for this reason that the Chiefs were unable to score in the second half and put the game away. The Chiefs will certainly have suitors for Smith’s services in the off-season, and it makes sense that they will move on with 1st round pick Patrick Mahomes waiting in the wings.

RB Kareem Hunt, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 42 - 1, Rec: 3 - 5 - 0 (3 targets)
Kareem Hunt rushed 11 times for 42 yards and a touchdown, while also catching three passes for five yards. Hunt was effective in the first half, scoring on a one yard touchdown plunge for the game’s first points, but was quickly phased out of the game plan by Andy Reid. Stop if you have heard this one before, but Reid and the Chiefs coaches should shoulder much of the blame for the loss to the Titans. While the Chiefs came out with a solid attack, predicated on attacking the edge of the Titans secondary, they also went away from that strategy once they were up 21-3. Hunt only managed to rush for 17 yards after halftime, and this was a big reason why the Chiefs lost the battle of field position, and allowed the Titans to score 19 unanswered points in the second half. Had the Chiefs just stuck to giving Hunt the ball, they would have surely been able to grind out at least a second half field goal, which would have been the difference between winning and losing this playoff game. As the NFL’s leading rusher, Hunt at least deserved the chance to put the Chiefs on his back after Travis Kelce was injured, however Reid did not give him that chance.

WR Tyreek Hill, 56 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 14 - 0, Rec: 7 - 87 - 0 (11 targets)
Tyreek Hill led all Kansas City receivers in yards, targets and receptions, catching seven of 11 targets for 87 yards. Hill also gained 14 yards on his only carry of the game. Hill had an up and down game, gaining 84 yards on four catches in the first half, including a 45 yard gain that set up the opening score of the game for the Chiefs. Hill ran a shallow crossing route from the left side of the formation, and Alex Smith hit him in stride as he hit the right hash mark. Hill showed off his incredible speed by turning the corner and bursting up the sideline, beating the Titans secondary all the way down to the Tennessee 26 yard line. It wasn’t all good for Hill though, as he dropped a long pass that Alex Smith put on the money down the left sideline where Hill ran a straight go-route, but initially turned to look over the wrong shoulder before dropping the ball. Hill was targeted five times in the second half but only managed three yards on three catches in the third and fourth quarters. The Chiefs desperately needed a big play from Hill to jump start their stagnant offense, but once Travis Kelce was lost due to a concussion, the Titans secondary bracketed Hill with double coverage and prevented him from getting into space.

TE Travis Kelce, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 66 - 1 (4 targets)
Travis Kelce caught four passes on four targets for 66 yards and a touchdown before exiting the game late in the second quarter due to a concussion. Kelce was unable to come back in the game, and his absence played a big part in the Chiefs offense stalling for the entire second half. Kelce was able to stretch out the Titans secondary and linebackers by beating them to the edge on crossing patterns and drag routes. His 27 yard reception set up Kareem Hunt’s one yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Kelce then came back on the very next possession, scoring a touchdown and extending the Chiefs lead to 14-0. Kelce lined up on the left edge of the offensive line and made a quick stutter step before exploding past the Titans linebackers up the seam. Alex Smith hit him in stride, but Kelce was so wide open due to the Titans linebackers underestimating his speed, it was a throw that any NFL quarterback could make. While Smith has been very good for Kelce’s career, it will be exciting to see what a quarterback like Mahomes, who has a much bigger arm can do for Kelce’s totals in 2018, assuming the Chiefs move on from Smith.