Chiefs vs. Titans game recap: Kansas City takes stomach punch of a loss

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 06: Quarterback Alex Smith
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 06: Quarterback Alex Smith /

The Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans played a very close and physical game to open the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs on Saturday.

After starting the game with an incredible 21-3 lead, the Kansas City Chiefs were unable to hold on at home against the visiting Tennessee Titans, suffering yet another stomach punch of a loss and sending the team into the offseason.

The Chiefs looked incredible from the very outset, putting together consecutive touchdowns in a similar fashion to the way they ran over opponents during their five-game winning streak to open the season. Kareem Hunt scored his very first postseason rushing touchdown and Travis Kelce caught  a nice touchdown catch from Alex Smith. Tyreek Hill was also creating big plays with his top-end speed.

The Chiefs were also forcing the Titans to go three-and-out on several drives and created turnovers that led to even more points. Marcus Peters intercepted a pass and the Chiefs forced the Titans into special teams miscues. By halftime, it looked like a confident rout on the part of Kansas City.

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Yet even before halftime, there were signs that the Chiefs were stalling. On one drive where the Chiefs started 1st-and-20 in their own territory, the playcalling simply called for bubble screens that didn’t even move the chains at all, leading to an easy 3-and-out for the Titans. Conservative playcalling continued to be the hallmark of the team’s approach for some reason. All the while, the Titans took advantage of the Chiefs cautious approach to shift the momentum.

Injuries also didn’t help the Chiefs cause. Chris Jones left the game with a knee injury and was questionable to return as he went to the locker room. Travis Kelce, the team’s All-Pro tight end, left for the rest of the game with a concussion shortly before the first half. The lack of Rakeem Nunez-Roches’s availability also hurt.

With the injuries and altered approach, for some reason, the Titans took control of the game from that point forward. Derrick Henry began to run down the heart of the Chiefs defense. Marcus Mariota kept several plays alive with his feet. Harrison Butker even missed a 48-yard field goal. After climbing back into the game, the Titans put together a long drive that resulted in a go-ahead touchdown pass from Mariota to Eric Decker, who made up for a key drop earlier.

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The Titans now move on to the divisional round and they might have just saved Mike Mularkey’s job in the process.