NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Quarterback Marcus Mariota caught a touchdown, threw two more and delivered a crucial block to seal a 22-21 victory for the Tennessee Titans on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs in their first postseason appearance since 2008. The playoff win was the first for the franchise since the 2004 Wild Card match-up against the Baltimore Ravens, a game Tennessee triumphed in by a score of 20-17.
Mariota was the highlight of the proceedings, completing 19 of his 31 passes for 205 yards a touchdown and an interception. The Heisman-winner also carried the ball eight times for 46 yards on the ground and even contributed in the receiving game, “completing” a batted pass to himself for six yards that he took to the end zone for six points.
As is their wont, the Titans spent most of the contest getting in their own way but managed to emerge successfully on the other side.
Quarterback Alex Smith had the Kansas City offense rolling in the first half. After holding the Chiefs to 22 yards on their first possession, the Tennessee defense allowed touchdowns (One, a one-yard rush by Kareem Hunt, the other a 13-yard catch by Travis Kelce) on their opponent’s next two drives and, according to ESPN’s Lisa Salters, “looked a little shell-shocked” on the sideline after giving up the latter and falling behind 14-0.
The defense stymied Smith on his unit’s next time out and Mariota drove down the field with three consecutive completions for 32 yards but was intercepted by corner Marcus Peters at the KC nine-yard line.
Again, the Titans defense held strong and forced a Chiefs three-and-out allowing the offense to take over and drive 48 yards in eight plays to put kicker Ryan Succop in position for a 49-yard field goal make and his team’s first points of the game, 14-3.
The corresponding Kansas City drive marched right down the field, 79 yards in nine plays, and Smith found Demarcus Robinson for 14 yards on his second touchdown toss of the day with :03 on the clock. Tennessee limped into halftime down 21-3.
Then, all hell broke loose.
The Titans opened the second half with the ball after deferring the opening kickoff and found itself with third-and goal from the Chiefs six. In one of the most bizarre sequences in the history of football, Mariota scrambled, looked to throw for the end zone and did, had the pass batted back to him by corner Darrelle Revis, caught the ball himself and dove for the score and a 21-10 margin.
Marcus Mariota just caught his own pass for a @Titans TD!!
— NFL (@NFL) January 6, 2018
Tennessee scored touchdowns on their next two outings on offense but did not do itself many favors in the process.
The Chiefs were held to another three-and-out but rookie corner Adoree’ Jackson muffed the ensuing punt. Kansas City then had the opportunity to push the lead to 24-10, but kicker Harrison Butker missed from 48-yards away to.
Derrick Henry, who got the nod at running back with veteran DeMarco Murray ruled out with a knee injury for the second consecutive game, ran 35 yards to pay dirt to make it 21-16 in favor of the Chiefs after a failed Titans extra point. The second-year back had a career high day running the football with 156 yards on his 23 carries.
Receiver Eric Decker, whose last two games have been plagued by dropped passes, redeemed himself with the go-ahead 22-yard touchdown catch on the next Tennessee possession and put his team in the driver’s seat for a riveting playoff win and 19 straight points.
The comeback made the Titans one of three road teams to have rallied from at least 18 points down to win a playoff game in NFL history (Detroit Lions in 1957 and the Dallas Cowboys in 1972), according to the AP.
UP NEXT: Tennessee advances to the divisional round Sunday, January 14 when they will face either the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots, depending on the outcome of the second AFC Wild Card contest between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills.