Sam Mellinger

Titans 19, Chiefs 17: Insta-reaction!

Tailgating in 1 degree weather for a televised football game will be difficult to explain when the aliens come, but sports are sports, and we're all crazy in our own ways, so even if there is precisely no chance I would've left my house this morning if not for my job, I respect the gumption of everyone who showed up and pretended it wasn't cold enough to turn beer to slush.

Good on you, if you showed up.

You're bat-spit crazy, you have to know that. But good on you anyway.

Kansas City Chiefs fans showed up at Arrowhead on Sunday to tailgate despite temperatures around zero degrees before the game against the Tennessee Titans.

And if you stayed home, watched on TV for free, in the warmth of your living room, where the food stayed hot for more than a few seconds, well, very good on you, too.

▪ I think this will be my game column — please check back a few hours after the game! — so I'll try to keep this relatively short, but it's at least mildly concerning that the Chiefs don't seem able to put teams away in the second half.

We all know all the caveats, but this has become something of a trend. Alex Smith threw a terrible interception in the end zone, part of why the Chiefs went scoreless in the second half (again).

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I happen to believe the Titans are a bad matchup for the Chiefs, particularly in the first game without Derrick Johnson, so a loss here isn't embarrassing. But when the standard is the Super Bowl, this is a fair criticism to make.


▪ I know I'll get some angry emails or tweets about this, because I always do when I say this, but it's true: the Chiefs have been really lucky this year, and they probably deserved that ending.

That doesn't mean they're not good, or that luck isn't part of the game, or a hundred other things, including the remarkable fact that they are still 10-4 with a long string of injuries.

It just means they've been remarkably and consistently lucky, from good timing on opponents' mistakes (two dropped interceptions by the Jaguars) to being one-for-one on bankshot field goals at the end of overtimes.

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On this day, at halftime, there were four fumbles, all recovered by the Chiefs, and at least three Alex Smith passes batted at the line of scrimmage that hung in the air long enough to be intercepted. None were. Two of those fumbles were at or near the goal line.

I still believe this is a good team, and nobody makes the point more often that all teams have flaws. But this is something to keep in mind, when imagining what might happen in the playoffs.

▪ Eric Berry continues to play what might be the best season of his career, in the season he bet on himself at last summer's franchise tag deadline.

He essentially stopped the Titans' first drive by himself, limiting the first play — which was wiiiiiiiiiiiiiide open — to 19 yards and then making the tackles to force the punt. He wasn't perfect. Rishard Matthews caught a deep pass, coming back through Marcus Peters and Berry, but nobody is perfect*.

* Except for Bo Jackson, obviously.

That negotiation after this season is going to be interesting. Salary cap should go up significantly. Chiefs have to sign him.

▪ In the tired-est side game in the Kansas City metro area, score one for the Alex Smith haters. He finished 15 for 28 for 163 yards, no touchdowns, and a horrible, terrible, rotten interception in the end zone when he never looked anywhere but to Jeremy Maclin and threw it even though LeShaun Sims had terrific coverage.

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Plays like that make you wonder what Smith would have to see to not throw it. If you read this or anything else I do with any regularity, well, first, thank you very much, and second, you probably know that I tend to skew more positive on Smith than some but have still been critical when I think it's deserved.

And, well, he was just bad today. The interception was enough on its own, but he missed too many throws and couldn't move the ball when the Chiefs needed in the second half.

Threw a sweet block on that screen to Ware, though.

And the touchdown run was a legitimately good play.

But this isn't good enough.

▪ Chris Jones played a monster game, again. He almost single handedly forced a three-and-out in the first half and was a consistent problem for the interior of the Titans' offensive line. Also made the play on the Titans' failed two-point conversion. Every week I wonder how the heck he was available in the second round. I know there were questions about his #motor, but jeez, what a talent.

▪ The Chiefs left three points on the field after being stuffed on consecutive runs up the middle on 3rd and 4th down in the second quarter. This is interesting for a lot of reasons, including the running storyline this morning of fan frustration at Andy Reid "getting too cute" near the goal line.

I've been hot and cold on the play calling — Hungry Pig Right is among the greatest plays in sports history, but the Kelce jet sweep after he limped off the field was frustrating — but have always kept in mind that the Chiefs don't have a physical offensive line. Those guys are much better in pass protection, and getting out in space.

Now, all that said, I fully endorse going for it on 4th and goal from inside the 1. I'm even OK with the play call. You have to be able to get two feet. You have to have 10 plays to choose from that can get two feet. The bigger curiosity, to me, was not challenging the second down play, when De'Anthony Thomas ran around the right edge — after some funny and hectic pre-snap motion by Tyreek Hill — and appeared to be inside the pylon.

Maybe it wouldn't have been overturned, maybe Reid thought he could get the yard anyway. But it was a mistake.