We were promised a show and boy did we receive one! The show down between new school and old school was everything that we could ask for an more (Unless you are a Titans fan). Andy Reid at the helm of an offense poised to show that Defenses don’t always win championships, and a Tennessee team headed by Mike Vrabel looking to debunk the idea that the league is going to be dominated by air raid offenses for the foreseeable future.
Tennessee came out hot and quickly looked to be getting in a groove driving down the field in a way that had KC fans everywhere wondering if they were to be the next piece of wood to be fed to the wood chipper. It looked like the Titans had a good game plan on how to move the ball and were going to deliver a quick seven points to start the game. But what no one really expected was that the KC defense would play a huge roll in this games makeup. Standing tall in the Red Zone KC forced the Titans to settle for three points which when playing the Chiefs leaves you with a very uneasy feeling when you know how quickly they can score. Hampered by drops and key sacks by the Titans defense KC seemed to be a touch out of sorts when it can to moving the ball early! Tennessee drove down the field quickly again and unlike their first trip into the Red Zone they were not leaving without a touchdown! A direct snap to King Henry lead the Titans to a 10-0 lead which had people questioning when and or if the Chiefs offense could get going and bring them back.
Almost on cue the KC offense came alive driving the length of the field seeming to use every weapon they had available, including Travis Kelce who showed his prowess as a receiver finding a soft spot in a zone coverage that extended the drive on a fourth and two. Shortly after a jet sweep to Hardman followed almost directly after by a jet sweep to Hill (A familiar sight to those that followed Hill in college where he played RB) which sprung the track star for the Touchdown.
The Titans were not willing to go down without a fight at this point. With a sold dose of Henry, drive extending catches by Humphries, and key penalties by the KC defense, the Titans found themselves in the Red Zone once more. Henry running hard as always was brutalizing linemen and linebackers but even he couldn’t find the End Zone being stopped just short. What did the Titans do you may ask. Did they run it with Henry up the middle? Did they throw it to one of there large physical receivers in the corner of the End Zone? No, they knew the Chiefs would be looking for them to go to one of these options and in a very Doug Pederson (Philly Special) kind of way they stunned the Chiefs with a trick play. Dennis Kelly reported as eligible and snuck five yards deep in the End Zone catching a TD in what we can all imagine with be an unforgettable moment for him and a key point in the game for his team. Now some of you may be asking, who is Dennis Kelly? Dennis Kelly happens to be an Offensive Tackle who originally played for the Philadelphia Eagles who was sent to Tennessee in exchange for Dorial Green-Beckham. Standing 6’8 and weighing in at 321Lbs, this made Kelly the heaviest player to catch a TD in an NFL Championship game.
Unfortunately for the Titans this TD did exactly what they were hoping would not happen. It fired the KC offense up and when you bring a track team on the gridiron points can be scored at a ferocious pace. In just over two minutes KC struck. A great kick return by Hardman to the forty yard line got them going and they did not look back from there. A drive capped off by a twenty yard TD strike to Hill put KC down just three with four minutes to play.
Tennessee may not have known it at this point but this would be the turning point of this game. Two runs to Henry who was stacked up both times by fantastic gang tackling and rallying to the ball and a screen pass that was sniffed out immediately spelled a quick three and out for Tennessee and lead to them giving the ball back to KC. This was the last thing they could afford to do in this position of the game because it would allow the Chiefs to double dip the chip as they would receive the second half kickoff as well.
Lead by Mahomes the Chiefs drove seventy yards down the field in less than 2 minutes. Big passing plays to Kelce, and Watkins set them up at the thirty yard line. Chunk plays seem to be this teams bread and butter but sometimes they come from players that you wouldn’t expect. At the thirty yard line with under a minute left, Mahomes was staring at a defense that had everything covered. That defense forgot one thing though, when playing man to man against a team with a mobile QB he should a will run when given the opportunity. Mahomes broke contain left and by simply avoiding one shoe string tackle found himself running alone down the boundary. When met at the five yard line by a defensive player Mahomes showed his strength, grit, and will to win and plowed through for the TD. Leaving only eleven seconds on the clock this would be the play that seemingly punched the Chiefs ticket to the Super Bowl.
It is now the second half kickoff and everyone is already thinking it, KC is going to drive down the field and start putting this game out of reach. But no! Tennesse comes out ready after taking one on the chin at the end of the first half and manages to stop an offense that some are referring to now as the fastest show on turf. With a glimpse of hope left they did what they needed to do and got the ball back and looked to slow the game back down. Starting the drive everything seemed to go as planned as the Titans methodically started marching down the field. All until they were faced with a third and a foot. Tennessee knew where they were going with the ball, KC knew where they were going with the ball, I am pretty sure that at that moment there was not a single person (Football fan or not) that didn’t know where they were going with the ball. This moment sealed the game as Tannehill turned around and handed the ball to the Titans most reliable player on the field, this was the do or die moment as Henry raced towards the line, this play had the feeling of a goal line stand! Player vs Player strength vs strength, will vs will. Henry hit the hole hard but unfortunately for him so did four KC defensive linemen and line backers. Henry was stuffed at the line of scrimmage causing what would have been a fourth and a foot if it were not for the seemingly hero earlier Kelly being called for a holding penalty that forced the Titans to give the ball back to Big Red.
On the very next drive KC did something that not allot of people would have expected. With every weapon at their disposal in the passing game they started to run the ball. They started to use Tennessee’s game plan against them. Williams, Thompson, and Mahomes used the ground more than the air on this drive. In this high powered air raid offense the run game seems to get over looked, but it took the second half of this game over. Chewing clock and picking up key first downs you started to get the feeling that this could be an imposing your will drive and boy was it. Between the three rushers for KC they managed to chew over eight minutes off the clock. For KC that drive seemed to take an eternity compared to how quickly they typically strike. Capped by a four yard run by Williams the Chiefs had seemed to step on the throats of the Titans and were refusing to be denied their seat in the Super Bowl.
You could feel the electricity in the air, the fans were going crazy, the offense was clicking on all calendars, and the defense could tell that if they made a stop here they very well may put an early end to this game. Coming up to the line they saw a Tannehill in a position he did not want to be in, shaky and frantic Tannehill dropped back and was immediately pressured by a KC front 4 that looked to put this game to bed. Dumping it off to Henry in the flat saved Tannehill from taking a hit but it lost the Titans two very important yards. It did not get better for him from there as he was sacked on his next two drop backs and once again the Titans surrendered the ball back over to KC.
Not looking to be outdone by their defense KC went right back to doing what they do. With a few short passes, one of which being an amazing reactionary catch by Watkins, KC stood at their own forty yard line. Looking to break the will of the Titans, Mahomes dropped back and rolled to his right. What happened next can only be described as he unleashed the howitzer, an off platform, cross body, deep ball that traveled FIFTY yards in the air. Waiting on the other end of this bomb was none other than a wide open Sammy Watkins who seemingly jogged in for the score. To KC this had to be the moment that everyone took a deep sigh of relief, for the Titans they had to have felt completely demoralized, and for Sammy Watkins he must have felt elated at the fact that he had just caught his first TD since a stunning three score game in week ONE!
Tennessee not seeming to simply travel home and lick their wounds did have a few more tricks up their sleeves as KC had seemingly stopped them on an underwhelming drive so far. Tennessee lined up to punt the ball from their own twenty two yard line seemingly admitting defeat, realizing they had only ten men on the field quickly rushed another person on. To the average person this would seem to be a lack of attention from the Titans but in all actuality it was all part of the plan. The ball was snapped the punter winds up but instead of punting the ball he throws it to a wide open receiver in the middle of the field picking up twenty eight yards and a first down. A few short plays later Corey Davis caught a pass that brought the Titans all the way to the KC twenty two yard line. This is usually where Tennesse really feeds the ball to Henry but knowing KC would expect that Tannehill hit a wide open seam pass to the TE Firkser for the TD. They had drawn within eleven and were looking to get a stop.
It was all on the Tennesse defense to get the ball back at this point and they knew it. Mahomes dropped back and for the second time this game heaved an off platform pass down the field, the ball was up the receiver was seemingly covered and instead of turning around for the ball the defensive back ran directly into the receiver costing his defense the opportunity to get off the field. While KC did not end up scoring on this drive this was the play that in the end would not allow Tennessee the time needed to make up the points that they had surrendered.
With under two minutes to play Tannehill dropped back on fourth down looking for a miracle, in fact he may have been looking for that miracle so hard that he did not see the KC defensive end until the last second, trying to scramble Tannehill was tackled by the shoe strings and the game was over.
A heart breaking defeat for the Cinderella team coming out of Nashville but a statement game from a coach, a team, and a city of Kansas City that seemingly will not be denied their fate!
My take aways from these two teams.
- Tennessee is very close to being a championship team, I think that if they were to insert a true deep threat receiver into their offense that can stretch the defense, they would be borderline unstoppable. Look for them to either draft a deep play receiver early in this years draft or target an experienced player in FA like a Robbie Anderson.
- Tennessee will most likely be right back in the playoffs next year as they are built for January and possibly February with a pounding run game and a smothering defense.
- Kansas City is absolutely disgusting on offense and to no ones surprise they have ridden this offense to two straight AFC Title games and now a Super Bowl appearance. But on defense they do have some holes. I think that if they draft either a CB early or a top flight MLB and target the other in FA they could be one of the most dominant teams to step on a football field.
- Andy Reid keeps winning, going to his second Super Bowl ( his first with Kansas City) but what I want to see is unlike in his first trip to the big dance will he have the answers this time for a red hot 49ers team.