It wasn't always pretty, but the Kansas City Chiefs came back to win yet another nail-biter on Sunday night as they defeated the Tennessee Titans, 20-17, in overtime on Sunday Night Football.
The Chiefs, who trailed by eight points in the waning minutes of regulation, rallied to tie the game late before winning it in overtime as part of a hard-fought victory that required contributions from all three phases.
"The guys battled," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "The main thing was that we won a game that we [trailed for most of the time]. It was a struggle – we were up and down – but the guys all hung together. You have to win [games like] this, [and] we accomplished that."
It was an odd game offensively for the Chiefs, as they racked up 148 yards of total offense and nine points on their first two possessions before coming up empty on their next seven drives. That stretch included five punts, a missed field goal, an interception and several uncharacteristic mistakes throughout.
The Titans were sure to take advantage, too, finding the end zone on back-to-back possessions midway through the second quarter to take a 14-9 lead. Tennessee later added a field goal early in the third quarter as well, marking 17 unanswered points for the Titans' offense while the Chiefs struggled to move the football.
Those offense struggles continued throughout much of the second half for the Chiefs, but despite yielding a pair of long scoring drives during the second quarter, the defense buckled down in a big way as the game continued. In fact, Tennessee recorded a grand total of one first down on its final nine possessions in the game. That defensive effort included a strong performance against Titans' All-Pro tailback Derrick Henry, who – despite racking up a pair of big runs early in the game – recorded just 23 rushing yards on eight carries in the second half.
"[It was all about] perseverance. [We did] whatever it took to give our team the opportunity to close it out and win," said defensive end Carlos Dunlap. "That's what we focused on. It didn't matter whatever scenario or whatever field position they had, [our mentality was to] get off the field. That's what we were thinking."
That stifling defensive performance kept the deficit at just eight points throughout the entirety of the second half, and while the Chiefs' offense couldn't get much going for much of that time, they didn't waste their final opportunity late.
That last chance, which began on the Chiefs' 7-yard line with just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation, resulted in a 13-play, 93-yard scoring drive that ultimately tied the game at 17 points apiece. The Chiefs racked up seven first downs on that series alone, one of which occurred following a pivotal, 20-yard scramble by quarterback Patrick Mahomes that moved the chains on third-and-17. Mahomes later scrambled for a 14-yard touchdown on that drive to pull within two points before using his legs once again to successfully convert the two-point conversion attempt. In total, Mahomes accounted for every offensive yard on the game-tying series while displaying his trademark, "refuse to lose" competitive nature.
"You have to be able to win games like that, where everything just isn't perfect and your emotions are up and down and you have to fight through it," Reid said. "You have to persevere through that and be able to rally, and [we] stepped up and rallied. We were so close on so many plays, and rather than get frustrated, [they] stepped up and [said] let's go."
Mahomes' efforts forced an overtime period, and after winning the opening coin toss, the Chiefs marched 64 yards on 13 plays to set up a 28-yard, go-ahead field goal by kicker Harrison Butker. The field goal was only possible, however, thanks to a tremendous, 27-yard catch by tight end Noah Gray that moved the chains on third down early in the series.
"For him to make that catch in that moment – I mean that was a tough catch that he made – that was a big one for us," Mahomes said. "That was probably the reason that we were able to get down there and win."
The Titans were still provided with a chance following the field goal, but the Chiefs' defense sacked Tennessee quarterback Malik Willis on consecutive plays to effectively seal the game. It was the definition of a hard-fought victory, and while it wasn't pretty, it was the type of contest that championship teams find a way to win.
"These are [like] playoff games. These are games you're going to need if you want to try to win the Super Bowl," Mahomes said. "Obviously, we want to be that high-flying, scoring every time we're out there on the field [kind of offense], but I think with the schedule that we've played, we've won in all different types of ways against a lot of great football teams. We've shown that we can do it in different ways, but we have to keep it going. We have to keep building [and] getting better – offense, defense and special teams – to try and prepare ourselves to go out there and win the AFC West."
Mahomes finished the game with 485 yards of total offense, marking the most yards by a player in a single game this season. He also became the first player in the Super Bowl Era to record 400+ passing yards, 60+ rushing yards and both a passing and rushing touchdown in a single game. His efforts helped Kansas City win its fifth-consecutive game in which it trailed at halftime dating back to last season.
Eleven different players also caught a pass for Kansas City, matching Buffalo (who did so in Week 3) for the highest tally in a single game by any team. Tight end Travis Kelce (10 catches for 106 yards) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (10 catches for 88 yards) led the way in that area as the Chiefs racked up 499 net yards of offense as a team.
Kelce's performance, in particular, marked the 32nd 100-yard performance of his career. The All-Pro tight end is now tied with Rob Gronkowski for the most such games by a tight end in NFL history.
In terms of injuries, Reid mentioned safety Deon Bush (tweaked left knee) and cornerback Jaylen Watson (dirt in eyes) following the game, but added that neither was anything serious.
The Chiefs will now turn their attention to a matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars this upcoming Sunday at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.