Titans' Super-Bowl dream crashes at Arrowhead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The formula that carried the Titans to Arrowhead Stadium for the AFC Championship Game faltered, and well after the Super-Bowl dream crashed, so did Jurrell Casey’s voice.

“When we first came in from the field, I went out there in the back and bawled my eyes out,” he said before a long pause to gather himself. “Definitely the best team I’ve been on. We may never have this opportunity again with the same unit. It definitely sucks. Nine years, never to make it, it’s one of the hardest things ever.”LoganRyanChase2KC

And when he stepped away, he cried again. He was hardly alone in a locker room where there were, understandably, a lot of red eyes after a team that went on an amazing run couldn’t earn itself two more weeks of work and the ultimate spotlight.

Within 3 at the half, the Titans lost a major game of keep-away in the second half, when the Chiefs held the ball for 18:52 to Tennessee’s 11:02 and pulled away for the 35-24 win that earned them the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named for the founder of their franchise.

Bell cow running back Derrick Henry came into the game as the first player in NFL history to run for 180 yards or more in three consecutive games, was limited to 19 carries and 69 yards, an average of just 3.6 yards with nothing longer than 11 and a 4-yard walk-in Wildcat TD.

He had just three carries and two catches after halftime when the Titans ran just 23 plays.

"That was the plan: Hit him low," Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. "...That is the only way you are going to get this guy down. Besides that we had two or three guys hitting him at once."KCsuperbowl

The Titans had a 17-14 lead with 4 minutes and 3 seconds remaining in the first half.

A three-and-out was a killer, with a Henry 1-yard run, a Henry no-gain and a 6-yard Ryan Tannehill-to-Dion Lewis pass.

The Chiefs then moved to a touchdown in just 1:40. Patrick Mahomes capped it with 27-yard TD scramble which qualified as the most disappointing defensive play of the Titans’ three-game winning streak.

Derick Roberson chased and dived coming up short and Rashaan Evans got burned by a slight stutter move. Then Tramaine Brock was way too eager to punch the ball loose and way under-focused on getting Mahomes on the ground.

Kansas City was up 21-17 and would never relinquish the lead.

“In a perfect world, yes, I say, ‘Hey Arthur (Smith), this has to be the last drive of the half,’ absolutely,” Mike Vrabel said. “That did not happen. It does not mean that the game was over. I felt like we still battled and competed, but that certainly was a big series for them.”

TyreekHillKCThe fear was the Chiefs would come out and take the third-quarter kickoff and build on it. They actually happily took a stalemate during which Tennessee managed only six offensive plays and 21 yards.

Arrowhead was rocking as things moved into the fourth quarter, and the Chiefs were up 28-17 two plays in and 35-17 a bit later after a 60-yard Mahomes to Sammy Watkins bomb.

Things had slipped away from the visitors, with the Chiefs getting the dynamic quarterback play and speed on offense they rely on. The Titans failed to sufficiently slow it and simply did not manage to keep up.

"They played an exceptional game," Evans said.

In the Week 10 regular-season win over the Chiefs in Nashville, Mahones was coming back from a knee injury and didn’t run and the Titans got a defensive score on an Evans fumble return, as well as a massive field goal block by Joshua Kalu.PK.comLogo badge vintage HiRes 1

Those sorts of plays didn’t arrive in this one, where there were no turnovers and clean special-teams play.

The Chiefs did some major drive-extending by converting seven of 11 third and fourth downs, while the Titans were a more modest five-for-13. Mahomes ran eight times for 53 yards and threw on the move plenty as he hit on 23 of 35 attempts for 294 yards and three scores.

“(Mahomes) is a great player, Andy Reid is a great coach, they have a great scheme, they have a great play-caller – all of the above,” Kenny Vaccaro said. “They deserve it. He put up 51 down 24-0. He’s a great, great player., He’s former MVP of the league., It is was it is.

“The speed is a factor, but his legs are a factor too. He can back up 20 yards and still make the ball go 50 yards. It doesn’t matter how fast they are. You can’t cover forever. They can run 4.9. He can go to any team and be slinging it.

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