by Terry McCormick
Everything that could go wrong did.
Except at the very end when Ryan Succop’s 53-yard field goal as time expired gave the Tennessee Titans an improbable 19-17 upset of the host Kansas City Chiefs.
“This team won’t quit, it never does, never has and I don’t see it ever happening with these guys in that locker room,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
Even Succop’s game-winner came after an earlier try fell short, only to get a do-over when Kansas City called timeout to ice him on a cold day where the temperature was 1 degree at kickoff.
“The first ball, I thought, I hit really well, and I don’t know what it was, but when it’s like 10 degrees outside – whatever it was – the ball obviously doesn’t travel the way that it normally would. You don’t get compression,” Succop said. “I felt like I hit the first one good and when it came up short, there was a second in my mind where I wasn’t sure if I could even reach from there. So, on the second one, I kind of just had to throw technique out the window a little bit and really go after it and hit it as hard as I could. I told some of the guys this earlier, you could give me 10 kicks from there, and I don’t know if I can make one.”
The game-winning drive began with 1:07 to play and the Titans with no timeouts, having burned them on two unsuccessful challenges and a near delay of game on their previous scoring drive.
We knew we had to get down and get into the 50-yard range for Ryan [Succop]. So we knew if we could get a couple of big plays that we would have a chance at it. Delanie [Walker] and Rishard [Matthews] made great plays. They got us down there and Ryan did a great job at finishing it off at the end,” said Mariota, who was 19 of 333 for 241 yards with one interception.
On that drive, the Titans scored on Derrick Henry’s 1-yard run with 3:12 to play, and then Mularkey opted to go for two, rather than play for the tie.
The two-point play was blown up by the Chiefs defense, which got pressure on Mariota forcing him to try and throw the ball away.
“I wanted to win, I wanted to win the game right there instead of going into overtime, instead of having to possibly do what we did there at the end.” Mularkey said. “I wanted to get us up and make a statement to our team that that’s why we came here. When we got the ball I went around the sidelines and talked to the guys on this team, the leaders and I said that this is my plan and they were all – let’s go. They knew before the drive started that we were going for it.”
But the defense stepped up and got a big three-and-out to get the football back for the offense.
The Titans gave up 14 early points to the Chiefs, missing out on an early chance to get the football as Tyreek Hill fumbled a punt, only to have Kansas City pounce on it.
From there, it didn’t take long for Hill to redeem himself, taking a handoff to the left and rambling 68 yards for an early lead.
If that wasn’t enough, the Chiefs took advantage of the Titans first turnover when Rishard Matthews was stripped of the football inside the 5-yard line, ruining a possible chance for Tennessee to put points on the board.
Instead, the fumble was returned by Daniel Sorenson 55 yards to set up a second touchdown drive for the Chiefs. Alex Smith’s 10-yard scramble made the score 14-0.
Tennessee finally answered with a drive in the second quarter, using the rushing of Derrick Henry and a flea-flicker pass from Marcus Mariota to Matthews. Henry scored from 5 yards out.
Mariota turned the football over on a strip sack in the first half, but the Titans held.
The Chiefs added Cairo Santos’ 34-yard field goal to make it 17-7 in the final minute of the half.
There was no more scoring until the Titans took possession of the ball at their own 12 with 7:54 to play in the game. Mariota, who had also had an interception in the game, calmly marched the Titans downfield for the touchdown.
The Titans are now 8-6 on the season and remain tied with Houston, which rallied to defeat Jacksonville.
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