Titans rally to beat Chiefs in AFC wild card game

Tennessee trailed 21-3 at half

Titans running back Derrick Henry carries the ball in the third quarter of the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Kansas City Chief.
Titans running back Derrick Henry carries the ball in the third quarter of the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Kansas City Chief. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Tennessee Titans, trailing 21-3 at halftime, scored 19 unanswered points in the second half to come from behind and beat the Kansas City Chief 22-21 in the AFC wild card game Sunday.

The Titans, who needed a win in their regular-season finale to earn a wild-card spot, took the lead for the first time with just over 6 minutes left in the game on Marcus Mariota’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker.

Tennessee went for the two-point conversion, but Mariota was sacked by Daniel Sorenson, who forced a fumble that was scooped up and returned for an apparent safety that appeared to give the Chiefs the lead again. But officials ruled that the whistle had blown Mariota down.

The Chiefs, who won their final four games of the regular season to clinch their second straight AFC West title, took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 1-yard run by NFL rushing champ Kareem Hunt. Kansas City made it 14-0 when quarterback Alex Smith hit tight end Travis Kelce for a 13-yard score.

After the Titans' Ryan Succop put Tennessee on the board with a 49-yard field goal, the Chiefs drove 79 yards in 1:52 to make it 21-3 on a 14-yard Smith pass to Demarcus Robinson.

Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce left the game late in the first half after a hit by Titans’ Johnathan Cyprien. Kelce, who appeared to be dazed after the play, suffered a concussion and did not return for the second half.

That made things more difficult for Smith, who finished the second half 19 of 23 for 231 yards with two touchdowns.

The Titans struck first in the second half on an odd play in which Mariota tossed himself a six-yard touchdown. Mariota took the shotgun snap and was forced to his left. He tried to throw a pass over the Chief's Darelle Revis, who deflected the ball back toward Mariota. The Titans quarterback snagged it and dove into the end zone to cut Kansas City's lead to 21-10.

The Titans drew to within a touchdown on a 35-yard run by Derrick Henry with 14:08 left in the fourth quarter. 

After losing the lead on the Mariota-to-Decker score, the Chiefs' defense appeared to get it back. Cornerback Marcus Peters burst through the line and ripped the ball from Henry's arms. Derrick Johnson scooped it up and ran it in untouched for the apparent score. But review of the play showed Henry was down before the ball came loose.

The Chiefs, whose offense gained less than 100 yards in the second half, drove into Titan territory on their final possession, but Smith missed Albert Wilson on a fourth-down pass with less than 2 minutes remaining.