NASHVILLE – First came the frantic gut-check drive.
Next, the double-thud.
Then, the celebration.
The Titans pulled out an improbable win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, winning 35-32 on a day when the team's fans waved their light blue flags proudly as red-clad Chiefs fans headed for the exits at Nissan Stadium. On the field, players were celebrating along with them after a crazy ending to a crazy game.
"I am filled with joy," said defensive back Joshu Kalu, who blocked a field goal on the final play of the game to create the double-thud noise, and preserve the win. "Once I (blocked) it, I knew we had won the game. I'll never forget that moment the rest of my life. I'm so happy for me and my teammates."
Moments earlier, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill had completed a 23-yard touchdown pass to receiver Adam Humphries with 23 seconds left to give the Titans a 35-32 lead.
The Titans battled back from a 29-20 deficit in the final seven minutes to win it.
"Everyone is pumped," Tannehill said. "It's fun to win a game like that. Just the excitement – that's why we love playing the game is competing, finding ways to win, and just that bond you create in moments like that. Definitely a big win for us."
Running back Derrick Henry finished the game with 188 yards and two touchdowns for the Titans, including a 68-yard run.
Tannehill completed 13-of-19 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns, with a 133.9 rating, against the Chiefs. He also ran for 37 yards and scored on a two-point conversion. Tannehill is now 3-1 as a starter since replacing Marcus Mariota prior to the team's game over the Chargers.
The Titans improved to 5-5 with the win.
"This win took everything," Titans cornerback Logan Ryan said. "It was a true battle. It felt like a playoff game in my mind, with the back and forth. We didn't quit, and that shows you a lot about this team. We have six games left, and you don't know what the story will be like at the end. But people have to say this team has a lot of fight."
The Titans fell down 10-0 early, but they battled back. And they kept battling back all day to stay alive on a day when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in his return to action.
The Titans took a 20-19 lead in the third quarter on a 68-yard touchdown run by Henry, who busted up the middle and outraced defenders into the end zone before the Chiefs jumped ahead 29-20, getting points on a Harrison Butker field goal and then on a 63-yard completion from Mahomes to receiver Mecole Hardiman.
But the Titans didn't fold. A one-yard touchdown run by Henry cut the lead to 29-27 with just 6:26 left in the contest before another field goal by Butker gave the Chiefs a 32-27 lead with 3:14 left in the contest.
The Chiefs had a chance to add to the lead but botched a field goal try with 1:21 left and that gave the Titans a chance to win it at the end.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel and players applauded Tannehill for his poise in guiding the team down the field in the hectic final moments. Tannehill connected with Humphries for a 23-yard touchdown pass with just 23 seconds left, capping a four-play, 61-yard drive that took just 58 seconds.
"Ryan is a dog," tight end Jonnu Smith said of Tannehill. "We have got so many dogs on this team. Every single person is this locker room helped us get a win today."
When the Chiefs quickly got into position to tie the contest with a field goal, Kalu quickly got into position to block the 52-yard try, and he saved the day when he got his left hand on it.
"That was like one of those Madden plays," Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill said of the block. "He came off the edge like perfectly. So, good for him, bad for us."
Earlier in the game, the Chiefs jumped ahead 10-0 on a three-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce, and on another field goal by Butker. Tannehill's nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Firkser cut into the lead, and then the Titans took the lead 13-10 on a 53-yard fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Rashaan Evans, who picked up the loose ball and outraced everyone for a score.
The Chiefs tied the game on a 41-yard kick by Butker, and it was 13-13 at the half. The Chiefs reclaimed the lead 19-13 on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to receiver Tyreek Hill with 6:54 left in the third quarter, and then came the wild finish that started with Henry's long run.
The Titans have a bye next weekend before returning to action on November 24 against the Jaguars.
"I felt like we got ourselves back into position. Now, the next step," Vrabel said of the team's standing with six games left. "We've been at this point before, and so it's going to be critical that we do everything that we can to take that next step. Before I go, I want to thank every one of those Titans fans that came out today. The ones that decided to come and cheer us and yell for us and stick around, I appreciate them. Hopefully they can bring some people with them, because I know the guys are going to play their tail off for them. They're going to compete. It's not always pretty, that's football. I just want to thank the ones that came out here and supported us."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10 of the 2019 season at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)