by Jim Wyatt – TitansOnline.com
But after Saturday’s emotional comeback win over the Chiefs, the Titans at least partied like it was 1999.
“This is probably the happiest I’ve been,” Titans tight end Delanie Walker said after the team’s 22-21 win. “It’s us against the world here – no one believes in us, and they always count us out. They didn’t think we could get the job done, and look what happened.
“Don’t count the Titans out, man. We have been grinding all year. This just shows we can play anybody.”
It was a heck of an ending on Saturday for the Titans, who rallied for an improbable victory here against the Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card round.
The Titans scored 19 straight points to end it, shocking fans at Arrowhead Stadium. And, perhaps, across the NFL.
It was the franchise’s first playoff win since the 2003 season – a January 2004 win at Baltimore.
“This is the biggest game my NFL career, winning a playoff game being down 18 with the season on the line,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know about magic and all that other stuff, but we just don’t quit. We have a lot of grit.
“We are a bunch of underrated savages.”
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 19-of-31 passes for 205 yards in the contest, with two touchdowns and an interception. He made a key block, and he even caught a touchdown.
Yes, he caught a touchdown – but more on that later.
“I just said that he can pass, he can run, and he can block. He can do it all,” Titans running back Derrick Henry said. “He caught the ball, too. It was a great job by him and I appreciate him. The whole offense is clicking. Everybody being where they’re supposed to be, everybody just doing extra stuff like Marcus making that block to seal the game. I just wanted to get a first down so we could get out of here with a win.”
Henry, of course, had a huge day himself. He ran for 156 yards on 23 carries, and he scored a big fourth quarter touchdown.
And on this day, the defense stiffened up with the game on the line, even when things didn’t look good early.
“Guys didn’t blink an eye,” Mariota said. “I think through this entire season, the ups, the downs, the energy it doesn’t change. You have to give a lot of credit to the guys. Got to give a lot of credit to the locker room for just continuing to believe. These situations are going to continue to prepare us for what’s ahead and again, it’s a fun locker room and a special place to play.”
The Titans trailed 21-3 at halftime before rallying.
The Tians cut the lead to 21-10 midway through the third quarter on a bizarre play – a six-yard touchdown pass from Mariota, to Mariota. It came on third-and-goal, when Mariota, rolling to his left, threw a ball that was batted back in his direction by Chiefs cornerback Darrelle Revis. Mariota caught the pass, and then dove into the end zone for a touchdown.
After Titans return man Adoree’ Jackson muffed a punt, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker missed a 48-yard field goal, and the game remained 21-10 with 2:25 left in the third quarter.
The Titans trimmed the lead to 21-16 on the 35-yard touchdown run by Henry, who took a handoff from Mariota and busted up the middle and raced into the end zone with 14:08 left. The ensuing two-point try failed, however.
The Titans then took 22-21 the lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to receiver Eric Decker with 6:06 left.
In the end, the defense got a stop on a big fourth down break up by safety Johnathan Cyprien, and the Titans were able to run out the clock with Henry, who picked up a crucial block from Mariota on third-and-10 in the final minutes. The play went for 22 yards, and the celebration began.
“That is the team we have. That does not surprise me and I don’t think you guys believe me when I say that they come in the locker room and there is a look that we are going to come back and win the game,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “But there is. It is on the sideline and it has been. It always has. It is this team. I wish you guys would give them a little credit for it. They stick together and they got each other’s backs and they always have and came through today when we really needed it.”
The Titans will face either the Patriots or the Steelers next week.
There’s work to be done in the playoffs, of course, but these Titans have turned things up a few notches.
“After this weekend, to be one of eight teams left,” tackle Taylor Lewan said. “Four years ago in my rookie year we were 2-14, and after that we were 3-13. It is pretty awesome.”