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Week 20 Game Recap: Tennessee Titans 24, Kansas City Chiefs 35


What you need to know

Tennessee Titans

The Titans offense fell short of keeping up with the Chiefs in this one as their magical playoff run came to an end. Derrick Henry never could get going against a Chiefs front that stopped him on short-yardage opportunities multiple times. Henry did find the end zone once, but he averaged just 3.6 yards per attempt with 69 rushing yards while getting blown up for losses on his only two pass receptions. Ryan Tannehill played a decent game but was mediocre overall as he rarely could connect downfield. He passed for a pair of touchdowns--one to tight end Anthony Firkser from 22 yards out and another from the goal line to backup tackle Dennis Kelly. Corey Davis led the team in all receiving categories while A.J. Brown took a back seat with just one thrilling play of 37 yards to kick off the game.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Tennessee Titans 35-24 in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. The Chiefs advanced to the Super Bowl where they will play the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers. Patrick Mahomes put the Chiefs on his back once again, throwing for 294 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 53 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Damien Williams ran for 45 yards and a touchdown, and caught five passes for 44 yards. Tyreek Hill made the most of his touches, catching five passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Sammy Watkins stepped up big, catching seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson combined, totaled just three catches for 39 yards, but in their defense, they were only targeted three times. Travis Kelce had a very quiet day, catching three passes for 30 yards on just three targets.

Tennessee Titans

QB Ryan Tannehill, 65 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 31 - 209 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 11 - 0
Tannehill started hot on the opening drive, completing a big 37-yard catch to A.J. Brown as his first pass of the day to help orchestrate an opening drive that would ultimately result in a field goal as Tannehill came up empty on two pass attempts from the 12-yard line--one of which was a pass to nobody on the corner of the end zone as his intended receiver apparently fell down. On the following drive, Tannehill would make a questionable read and threw what would have been an interception if not overturned after a replay review. He did come up with a clutch throw to Adam Humpries to convert a fourth-and-short later in that drive. Tannehill’s first touchdown of the game would come on the next drive as he found tackle Dennis Kelly wide open on a trick play from the goal line--the third time this season the Titans have drawn up a touchdown pass for an offensive lineman. The second half started off in lackluster fashion as Tannehill couldn’t find his targets downfield, instead settling for dink and dunk plays that led his first two drives to punts while the Chiefs put up back-to-back touchdowns to extend their lead beyond to three scores. With Tennessee firmly in catch-up mode, Tannehill did make a few nice plays in the middle of the fourth quarter as he helped lead the Titans downfield on a scoring drive. The middle of the drive was certainly helped by a big fake punt pass completion, but Tannehill helped close the drive out with a nice 22-yard pass down the right sideline to Corey Davis. He followed that up by taking another sack (his second at the time) but bounced back on the next play by stepping up in the pocket to complete a laser to Anthony Firkser for a 22-yard touchdown.

RB Derrick Henry, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 69 - 1, Rec: 2 - -8 - 0 (2 targets)
Derrick Henry was uncharacteristically shut down in this game as he and the Titans offense were ultimately unable to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. With the Titans in catch-up move for the entire second half, Henry saw just 19 carries and averaged only 3.6 yards per attempt. He got going on the second drive of the game with a nice 11-yard run up the gut to open up the drive. He followed that up with another powerful five-yard run, but he couldn’t convert on two attempts from 1st-and-5 which set up what ended up being a fourth-down conversion by the Titans. Henry would finish the drive strong though as he converted the touchdown from four yards out, taking a direct snap and making a solid read to hit a wide-open gap on the left side of the line. Henry would receive six carries on the following drive to lead off the second quarter, including what would end up being his longest run of the day for 13 yards as he patiently followed his blockers, weaving his way down the left side of the field. Henry made a few more decent plays on that drive, but he had another nice run of eight yards called back by an offensive holding penalty and failed to find the end zone with two runs from within the five-yard line. The following drive consisted of Henry getting shut down for one yard and no gain as the Titans went three-and-out to close the half. Coming out of halftime, the Titans tried to establish Henry but it was to no avail. Their first drive stalled as Henry was shut down for no gain on second and third-and-1 plays. The Titans tried to get Henry involved in the passing game on the following two drive, but both plays were blown up for losses, at which point the game was fully out of hand and Henry would fail to see another touch.

WR Corey Davis, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 65 - 0 (8 targets)
Corey Davis led the team in both targets and receptions as he finished as the top receiver for the Titans--a rare sight considering the down season put forth from Davis this year. He started off as a check-down target of a 12-yard reception on the opening drive. His next catch came on the first play of the second quarter as Davis hauled in another catch off play-action as he found a soft spot in the middle of the field for an 18-yard gain. He was wrecked on his next catch though as Tyrann Mathieu read the play from the start and forced a two-yard loss. Davis drew a pass interference penalty a couple plays later though, actually making the 10-yard catch despite it being no play. The next action for Davis wouldn’t come until the fourth quarter as he led off the first drive of the quarter with a 15-yard catch on the right sideline. His final catch of the game was his longest of the day, hauling ina 22-yard reception that helped set up a score late in the fourth quarter.

WR Adam Humphries, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 25 - 0 (5 targets)
In his return from an injury that had sidelined him since Week 13, Adam Humphries finished with a mediocre four receptions for 25 yards. Behind the stat line, however, Humphries was an integral part of this Titans offense as his first three catches came on fourth and third downs. Humphries made all three catches to convert on the three big opportunities and keep the chains moving for Tennessee. His final catch came in garbage time though as Humphries never caught a ball more than nine yards downfield.

WR A.J. Brown, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 51 - 0 (6 targets)
Brown caught the first pass of the day from Ryan Tannehill, coming off a play-action fake as Brown found himself open about 11 yards downfield. He made a move and added a stiff arm before turning upfield to gain an extra 15 yards as he completed the longest play of the day for the Titans--a 37-yard gain. That really was his only highlight of this game though, as caught just two more short passes while getting missed on a couple of deep opportunities throughout this game.

TE Jonnu Smith, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 38 - 0 (4 targets)
Smith found himself wide open on a wheel route midway through the first quarter, picking up 22 yards for his longest catch of the game. His other two catches, a pair of eight-yard gains, came on the same drive late in the fourth quarter.

TE Anthony Firkser, 22 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 22 - 1 (2 targets)
Firkser caught another lone touchdown in this game as he ran a nice route and made a leaping catch from 22-yards out for the score. That was his only reception as he saw just one other target in the game.


Kansas City Chiefs

QB Patrick Mahomes, 68 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 35 - 294 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 8 - 53 - 1
Patrick Mahomes completed 23 of 35 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs win over the Titans on Sunday. Mahomes also showed of his versatility, rushing for 53 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, which included a 27 yard touchdown run just before the first half ended that put the Chiefs up for the first time in the game. With the Chiefs facing a second and ten from the Titans 27 yard line, Mahomes took the snap out of the shotgun and was given a clean pocket for nearly four seconds before the Titans pass rush forced him out of the pocket. Mahomes took off his to left with three Seahawks in hot pursuit. Mahomes managed to allude the first diving tackle by throwing a smooth little hesitation step where he looked downfield and slowed up slightly before tucking the ball and scrambling to his left. Mahomes next move will be replayed for years to come, as will the rest of this play, with Mahomes throwing a no-look fake that consisted of him turning his hips and shoulders back towards the middle of the field like he was going to throw a pass. Only, Mahomes didn’t attempt the pass, instead he tucked the ball again and left his defenders in the dust, rushing up the left sideline. Mahomes would not encounter another Titans defender until the six yard line after he cut the ball back to the middle of the field. At the six, Mahomes slipped out of a sloppy, yet somewhat effective tackle attempt by spinning out of it, while at the same time dodging an incoming Titan defender who had a clean shot on Mahomes chest. From there, he avoided another strip/tackle attempt by the Titans and carried his man into the end zone for an improbable 27 yard touchdown that put the Chiefs up 21-17 with 11 seconds to go in the first half. The touchdown run completely changed the momentum and gave the Chiefs their first lead of the game. Mahomes first touchdown pass came with the Chiefs facing a first and goal from the Titans eight yard line. Earlier in the drive, Mahomes was forced out of the pocket, scrambling to his right. On the full-run, Mahomes used a ¾ motion and delivered a 37 yard strike right on the money to a diving Hill along the right sideline. It was another example of the myriad type of throws Mahomes is able to make look routine, while they are anything but. Mahomes took the snap out of the shotgun and lightly tossed the ball in front of him to a streaking Hill. Prior to the snap, Hill was lined up to the right directly behind the end of the Chiefs offensive line. At the snap, Hill ran across the face of Mahomes and caught the drop ball while immediately dodging a “potential” tackle attempt by a Titans defender by changing his course a bit wider running to the left sideline. Hill is so fast that once he turned the corner, there was nothing the Titans could do to get a hand on him, let alone try to tackle him before the star wideout crossed the goal line for the eight yard touchdown reception. Mahomes second touchdown pass came with the Chiefs facing a second and 10 from the Titans 20 yard line. Mahomes took the snap out of the shotgun and was looking to his left the entire time for Hill, who was running his route out of the left inside slot position. When a receiver comes off the line of scrimmage against press coverage, the rhythm usually consists of the receiver throwing a quick juke where they are faking to either side and then taking off to run their route. However, in this case, the juke was the route, as Hill employed a second juke directly after his first juke that froze his defender and allowed him to get to the outside unimpeded. After Hill got the first step, the route was over as there is no defender fast enough to recover against Hill in the short field. There was no safety help and no Titans defender in the middle of the field to make a play on the ball, so Hill was able to get by his defender and catch an easy 20 yard pass from Mahomes. The Mahomes to Hill connection put up 14 straight points for the Chiefs at a time when the Chiefs really needed to keep the game close, as the Titans are a completely different team when they have a lead and can let Derrick Henry wear down the Chiefs defense. Mahomes third touchdown pass came with the Chiefs facing a third and six from the Titans 40 yard line. Mahomes took the snap out of the shotgun and was given a clean pocket by his offensive line. After three seconds, Mahomes took off his left but immediately stopped short when he saw the pressure coming from the right side of the Titans defensive line. Mahomes then stepped back into the pocket and went through his progressions—again—before scrambling to his right and throwing a 50 yard deep ball on the run to Watkins who was streaking down the middle of the field. There are maybe a handful of quarterbacks in the NFL who could make that throw 30% of the time, yet Mahomes seems to make it every time. Watkins got behind his defender and Mahomes throw had enough juice on it to hit Watkins nearly on the dead run, yet still deep enough where he could outrun his defender on the way to a 60 yard touchdown. That was the final nail in the coffin, putting the Chiefs up 35-17 with seven minutes left in the game, clinching their first Super Bowl berth in over 50 years. Mahomes led the Chiefs to five touchdowns that averaged 72 yards per drive, a great indicator of the high level Mahomes is playing at right now.

RB Damien Williams, Rush: 17 - 45 - 1, Rec: 5 - 44 - 0 (6 targets)
Damien Williams rushed 17 times for 45 yards and a touchdown, while also catching five passes for 44 yards on six targets. This was not Williams most efficient game, but it did follow a similar pattern, which is to say Williams took advantage of his carries in the red zone, and played very well in the passing game. Williams was responsible for taking the Chiefs from their own 14 yard line to their 39 yard line in two plays, with those plays setting up and preceding Mahomes touchdown run at the end of the first half. Williams touchdown run came with the Chiefs facing a second and goal from the Titans three yard line, up 24-17 at the start of the fourth quarter. Mahomes took the snap under center and handed off to Williams, who was charting a course off the right tackle. Right at the moment of the handoff, Hill was running across the formation (behind the line of scrimmage), which froze several Titans defenders who would have been responsible for Hill had he run the reverse. Williams displayed nice patience as he ran behind his offensive line to the right side, and then broke around the corner as soon as the hole opened up for him. Although he wasn’t touched on his way to the end zone, it wasn’t an easy run, as Williams had to wait for the right moment to turn the corner. It is a play right up Williams alley as he takes pride in being an excellent fundamental player, which allows him to take advantage of the Chiefs offensive scheme that gets him great looks against defenses that are preoccupied with stopping Mahomes, Kelce and Hill. Despite being on the slightly right side of a running back by committee backfield, Williams has been given the rock 29 of the 30 times the Chiefs have handed off to a running back this postseason. Against an aggressive 49ers defense, Williams should play a big part in relieving the pressure on Mahomes that is sure to come, an excellent story for a running back that was the Dolphins #5 back three seasons ago.

WR Sammy Watkins, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 114 - 1 (10 targets)
Sammy Watkins caught seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in the Chiefs win over the Titans in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Prior to this game, Watkins had not scored a touchdown or gone over 100 yards in his last 16 games for the Chiefs, going all the way back to his scorching week one performance (9-198-3). Watkins picked a great time to step his game up, as his 76 receiving yards in last week’s divisional round was his third highest yardage total of the year. Watkins touchdown catch came with the Chiefs up 28-17 with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Facing a third and six from the Titans 40 yard line. Mahomes took the snap out of the shotgun and was given a clean pocket by his offensive line. After three seconds, Mahomes took off to his left but immediately stopped short when he saw the pressure coming from the right side of the Titans defensive line. Mahomes then stepped back into the pocket and went through his progressions—again—before scrambling to his right and throwing a 50 yard deep ball on the run to Watkins who was streaking down the middle of the field. Watkins was lined up in the left inside slot position and made a juke move to the inside of the field. His defender got a quick hold on him, but Watkins was able to use a swim-like move which toppled over his defender and let him run down the middle of the field with no defender on him. Mahomes saw him a little late, but his arm strength still allowed him to make a throw 50 yards down the field while on the run to his right. When the ball was let go, Watkins had five yards on his defender, however once the ball got to him, his defender was less than a yard from reaching him. Watkins made a superstar play by catching the ball while simultaneously breaking hard to left and away from his defender. At least half the time I see a receiver try to make that play, they forget to secure the ball before moving their eyes to the defender and changing direction. Watkins played it perfectly though, securing the ball and running away from his defender for the 60 yard touchdown catch. The Chiefs are really difficult to stop on offense when Kelce and Hill are playing at a high level, however, if you throw in Watkins at the top of his game and this offense becomes nearly impossible to stay in front of for four quarters.

WR Tyreek Hill, 61 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 7 - 0, Rec: 5 - 67 - 2 (7 targets)
Tyreek Hill caught five passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns, and added another seven yards on the ground on his only carry of the game. With the Titans leading 10-0, and then 17-7 in the second quarter, Hill took it upon himself to bring the Chiefs back, scoring two consecutive touchdowns that seemed to wake up the offense. Hill’s first touchdown catch came with the Chiefs facing a first and goal from the Titans eight yard line. Earlier in the drive, Mahomes was forced out of the pocket, scrambling to his right. On the full-run, Mahomes used a ¾ motion and delivered a 37 yard strike right on the money to a diving Hill along the right sideline. While Mahomes should be applauded for his ridiculously difficult throw on this play, let us not forget Hill, who had to work back to his quarterback when Mahomes took off to his right outside the pocket. Not only did Hill get open for Mahomes, but he also made an excellent catch on the ball, laying out to his left and cradling the ball into his chest to secure the ball did not get knocked out of his hands when he hit the ground.

With the Chiefs at the Titans eight yard line, Mahomes was set up in the shotgun and Hill was lined up to the right directly behind the end of the Chiefs offensive line. At the snap, Hill ran across the face of Mahomes and caught the drop ball while immediately dodging a “potential” tackle attempt by a Titans defender by changing his course a bit wider running to the left sideline. Hill is so fast that once he turned the corner, there was nothing the Titans could do to get a hand on him, let alone try to tackle him before the star wideout crossed the goal line for the eight yard touchdown reception. Hill’s second touchdown catch came with the Chiefs facing a second and 10 from the Titans 20 yard line. Mahomes took the snap out of the shotgun and was looking to his left the entire time for Hill, who was running his route out of the left inside slot position. When a receiver comes off the line of scrimmage against press coverage, the rhythm usually consists of the receiver throwing a quick juke where they are faking to either side and then taking off to run their route. However, in this case, the juke was the route, as Hill employed a second juke directly after his first juke that froze his defender and allowed him to get to the outside unimpeded. After Hill got the first step, the route was over as there is no defender fast enough to recover against Hill in the short field. There was no safety help and no Titans defender in the middle of the field to make a play on the ball, so Hill was able to get by his defender and catch an easy 20 yard pass from Mahomes. Off the field, Hill has taken some big lumps in the media over the last couple of years, but a big Super Bowl performance could help turn the tide back in his favor. His electric playmaking and speed were tailor made for the big stage, and I expect him to have a big game against the 49ers

WR Mecole Hardman, 27 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets)
Mecole Hardman caught one pass for eight yards on one target in the Chiefs win over the Titans on Sunday. Hardman was used sparingly in this game, and with the Chiefs offense running through Watkins and Hill, there were even less opportunities than usually available for the rookie wide receiver. He still managed to make a play that jumpstarted the Chiefs offense. With a little under seven minutes left in the second quarter, the Titans kicked off after scoring a touchdown to put them up 17-7. Hardman caught the ball at the two yard line and ran it 35 yards up the field to put the Chiefs in excellent field position to star the game. This has been his M-O all year, and you get the feeling that Andy Reid will devise several plays for his electric rookie in the Super Bowl, especially if the Chiefs get down to start the game. Hardman isn’t seeing many touches in the passing game, but he has high value to the Chiefs return game, as giving the offense advantageous field position just adds one more huge wrinkle to any scheme that is designed to stop them. Look for Hardman to make at least one big play on special teams, and then watch how his return galvanizes and pumps up his offense.

TE Travis Kelce, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 30 - 0 (4 targets)
Travis Kelce caught three passes for 30 yards on four targets in the Chiefs win over the Titans in the AFC Championship game. This performance was a huge disappointment for Kelce, as he was coming off a 10 catch, 134 yards and three touchdown game in the Divisional round against the Texans. Kelce’s biggest contribution on the day came with the Chiefs facing a fourth and two at the Titans 28 yard line, down 10-0 with two minutes left in the first quarter. Kelce ran a route that you would be hard pressed to find a tight end who could do it as smoothly as he can. He was lined up on the right inside slot position and started his route by running two yards down the field, right on the first down side of the 28 yard line. As he got to the 29 yard line, he had a middle linebacker to his left and another Titans defender three yards down the field to his right. Kelce juked the middle linebacker like he was going to break to the inside of the field, but instead he put his foot in the ground and pivoted back to his right. This gave Mahomes a window to fire the ball into, as well as the room for Kelce to make sure he was across the first down mark. Mahomes threw the ball a little behind Kelce, but he was able to secure the catch and hold onto the ball after two Titans defenders laid shots on him. Kelce will almost certainly show out in the Super Bowl, and he will be an integral part of the Chiefs ability to outgun the 49ers defense.