KANSAS CITY – The Titans lost to the Chiefs 20-17 in overtime on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the contest …
Resilient – and Exhausted – Defense
The Titans defense gave up a lot of yards (499), and first downs (29). At the end of the 4th quarter, the defense couldn't keep the Chiefs from driving to tie the game, and in overtime, the group allowed a drive that ended with the Chiefs kicking the eventual game-winning field goal. But man, did this group play with a lot of guts, and the unit gave the team a chance to win on a night when the offense didn't do enough. The Titans sacked Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes four times, and they flustered him throughout the night, despite being an exhausted bunch. Even in defeat, there was reason to be proud. "I don't know how many plays we played on defense – probably like 100 or something like that," Titans safety Kevin Byard said. "But at the end of the day we battled our asses off. I'm proud of the way we played – everybody was out there battling." The Titans defense ended up being on the field for 91 plays, and 41:28 of the contest.
Ups and Downs from Malik Willis
The rookie quarterback made his second career start on Sunday night, and he flashed early. Willis connected with tight end Chig Okonkwo for a 48-yard completion, and he hit tight end Austin Hooper for a 16-yard gain. Willis also sprinted for a 17-yard gain on a night when he gained 40 yards on the ground. Willis completed just 5-of-16 passes for 80 yards in the game, however, and he was sacked three times. At the end, he was unable to guide the Titans to points, or really muster up anything on offense. But Willis was also victimized by some drops, which kept the Titans from being able to gain momentum, and perhaps extend their lead. "I tell you what: He threw some really nice deep balls," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Willis. "I mean, we went up and down with three of them that we have to make. … I know he made some really nice (throws) that hopefully we can figure out how to catch, and come down with."
No Catches From WRs
Two of the balls Vrabel was referring to were catchable passes that eluded the grasp of receivers Chris Conley and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. Both plays would have been big ones downfield, but the football ended up on the ground on both occasions. Yes, both plays were defended, but this is the NFL. Looking at the Titans stat sheet, this jumped out: Not one of the team's five completions went to a receiver – tight ends Austin Hooper (2) and Okonkwo (1) had catches, and so did running backs Hassan Haskins (1) and Dontrell Hillard (1). Only four of the 16 attempts from Willis went to receivers, so it's not like they had a lot of opportunities. Still, the missed opportunities were glaring. "It's a team sport," Willis said, not placing blame on the drops. "I miss throws sometimes, so I can't be mad if someone doesn't make a play. We're not perfect beings. We all make plays, and we all miss plays. I can't be mad. We're one team. I make mistakes as well – we're all human."
If it seems like Titans running back Derrick Henry makes "Six Things" each week, it's because he does. Henry went over the 100-yard mark for the fifth straight game on Sunday night with a 115-yard, two-touchdown performance. Henry scored on a four-yard touchdown run, and he also scored on a one-yard run. Along the way, Henry broke Early Campbell's record with 74 career rushing touchdowns. Henry busted loose for a 56-yard in the contest on a night when he averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Henry managed just 22 yards on seven carries in the second half, however, and he left Arrowhead Stadium disappointed. "It's tough," Henry said. "We just didn't execute in the second half. … We have to play better on offense and make the plays that needed to be made."
The defense deserves a lot of recognition after this one, for making plays throughout the game. Defensive lineman Denico Autry had a pair of sacks, and defensive linemen Mario Edwards and DeMarcus Walker added sacks as well. Cornerback Roger McCreary picked off Mahomes in the game, and safety Kevin Byard led the team with 12 tackles. Once again, I noticed linebacker David Long Jr. all over the field, and he was credited with 10 stops. The Titans were feisty in coverage, and the longest pass play of the night for the Chiefs was a 33-yard completion. One downfall: Mahomes scrambled for 63 yards, and a score. "I think we could have probably done a little bit more – obviously everybody could," Vrabel said. "There's no moral victories. … Is there more we could have done? Yeah, there's more that I could do, and there's more the coaches could do, and the players – so we could win."
Stagnant 2nd Half Offense
I touched on some of the struggles on offense earlier, but I feel like I'd be ignoring the obvious issues of this night if I let the overall lack of productivity slide. The Titans managed just nine first downs on Sunday night (compared to 29 for the Chiefs). The Titans were just 1-of-11 on third down in the game, and the team managed just 229 total yards (compared to 499 for the Chiefs). The second half was abysmal for Tennessee's offense, as the unit managed just one first down and 38 total yards while going 0-of-7 on third down. The second half drive chart looked like this for the Titans in the second half, in terms of total plays and yards: 3-12, 4-8, 3-8, 3-6, 5-8, 3-minus 4 and 3-0. The team's possession in overtime went for minus-16 yards. It's hard to win games in the NFL with that kind of offense, and the Titans couldn't overcome in on Sunday night.