Nothing better exemplified the potential for a big day by the Chiefs defense than the play in the first quarter that turned a long Titans gain into a long Chiefs’ takeaway return.
Eric Berry stripped Titans receiver Rishard Matthews at the 5 after his reception from Marcus Mariota had gained 35 yards.
The ball rolled into the end zone, where Daniel Sorensen scooped it up and brought it out.
Some 55 yards later the Chiefs were in business near midfield and wound up scoring a touchdown on the drive.
Turned out, that was their final touchdown in a crushing 19-17 loss to Tennessee.
Throughout most of the afternoon, the Chiefs defense held up its end of the bargain, holding the Titans to one touchdown through three quarters. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry were having some success, but the Chiefs had control of the game for most of the frigid afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
But the Chiefs couldn’t come up with the final stop and Titans kicker Ryan Succop banged a 53-yard field goal on the final play for the victory.
“We made some plays, we (created) some turnovers,” linebacker Ramik Wilson said. “But we didn’t make the stops when we needed to.”
The Chiefs came up with a huge play in the fourth quarter, one that could have been the game-winner.
After the Titans scored on Derrick Henry’s 1-yard run to cut the Chiefs’ lead to 17-16 with 3:14 remaining, coach Mike Mularkey decided to go for two.
The Titans were all in.
“I loved it,” Mariota said of the decision. “For him to have the confidence in us, to have the opportunity to go in there and win it, I didn’t question that call at all.”
Mariota rolled to his right, and the Chiefs defended the play perfectly. Mariota couldn’t find a target and wound up with what was ruled an incomplete pass.
When the Chiefs couldn’t clinch the game by picking up a first down, the defense went back on the field looking for one more stand. But Mariota drove the Titans 40 yards in six plays to set up Succop’s game winner.
“We thought we were playing well and made some plays,” Sorensen said. “But it came down to not making enough plays toward the end of the game.”
The Chiefs trudged into the locker room shaking their heads. The defense had created a plus-two turnover margin, with a marvelous Ron Parker one-handed interception and a Dontari Poe forced fumble that was recovered by Wilson as the other takeaways.
“That’s what they do,” Mariota said.
But it wasn’t enough. The team got a four-tackle performance from D.J. Alexander, the special-teams standout who was making his first NFL start in place of injured Derrick Johnson.
Again, not enough.
“We have to keep moving forward,” Wilson said. “This was a big wake-up call. We’ve got to learn how to finish. When we have the momentum, we have to finish.”