The Titans’ cinderella postseason run has officially come to an end.
It was always going to be a tough task for the Titans to win with these circumstances. The Arrowhead crowd is as good as any in all of sports, the Chiefs’ defense has improved greatly ever since their week 10 loss to Tennessee, and stopping Patrick Mahomes is damn near impossible.
But with the way this team has been playing the last 2 weeks, going into an environment like Arrowhead and being tasked with slowing down Mahomes, the task at hand didn’t seem that tall.
Lots of things happened, but in the end, Mahomes was too much for the Titans to handle.
Let’s talk about it, for the final time this season.
1. Derrick Henry Stifled By Motivated Kansas City Chiefs Defense
Coming into today, Derrick Henry’s play was a red hot topic among media and fans across the country.
For good reason too.
It’s rare that we get to see a running back dominate like, Henry has in, today’s age of football. The importance of the passing game has became a top priority across the league, as teams finally figured out passing the ball is more efficient than running the ball.
Well, that’s if you have the right pieces in place.
What a concept!
But the Titans shewed away the persuasion of a clicking passing game, instead, opting for the physical characteristics that the run game brings.
With that though, comes expected regression in the numbers.
After ripping off an incredible tear, running for over 100 yards in 7 of his last 8 games, Henry rushed for only 69 yards today against the Chiefs.
In other words, the Chiefs successfully tamed the beast.
It wasn’t just Henry who got tamed though, the offensive line looked lost against this Chiefs defensive front.
They were bullied in the run game, outworked in pass protection, and simply just couldn’t match the intensity up front from the Chiefs.
In fact, the Chiefs throughout the game, beat the Titans at their own game.
Being physical at the point of attack and ball control.
Due to the passing game not keeping up, and a certain MVP playing out of his mind (which we’ll get to in a second), Henry just didn’t get the rock as much as we expected (only 19 carries).
It was an incredible run for Henry, filled with play that the Titans will lean on in the future.
2. Patrick Mahomes Showcases His Greatness Once Again
Like I mentioned above, stopping Mahomes and that offense is almost impossible.
They have too much speed, too much talent, and too much intelligence on their offensive staff.
So it wasn’t surprising to see the Chiefs shred the Titans’ defense, in fact, it got incredible to watch as the game went along.
The passing game was in sync time after time, clicking on all cylinders, and not missing a single step. Play designs were perfect, execution was fantastic, it was just a simple “you can’t stop me” mentality that was fluid throughout the entire offense.
Mahomes found hole after hole in the back end of the Titans’ defense, exhausting a Titans pass rush that didn’t get a lot of pressure to begin with.
Whenever the Titans got the rare achievement of locking down a speedy Chiefs wide receiving core, Mahomes just scrambled and moved the offense down the field by himself.
A truly clinical performance from Mahomes, one that I’m sure Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees expected.
Unfortunately for the Titans, their offense couldn’t keep up with Mahomes, therefore losing the battle on the scoreboard in the process.
Thus ends a woeful stretch of play for the Titans, which looked so dominant early on in the year.
3. Arthur Smith Loses His Touch When It Matters Most
First year offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, had been on a roll calling plays.
He’s exceptionally kept the passing game flowing off of the dominant ground game, almost making this offense look downright scary.
But today, when the Titans needed almost everything to keep the Chiefs’ defense guessing, Smith fell short.
We saw a Marcus Mariota red zone touch, a minimal gain in the red zone.
Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of trickery, or at least some sort of deception to keep the Chiefs on their toes.
Any sort of motion with AJ Brown to fool the Chiefs’ defense?
Anything else to throw off the scent?
Of course you need things like that when you’re going head to head against an offense like the Chiefs’, also when your defense can’t find a way to get stops.
You have to find way to rack up the points.
But it didn’t happen for the Titans, effectively leading to their season ending just short of a magical Super Bowl appearance.
Smith still had a wonderful first year as a playcaller, but they end up judging you for how well you do your job in the playoffs.
It’s just this game, Smith lost his touch, and couldn’t recover it in tim.
Looking Ahead to The Future
Taking a look into the crystal ball and predicting the Titans’ future is rather difficult.
The team has the foundation and mindset to win going forward, but some key players for this recent run are ready to hit the free agent market.
They have to make free agency decisions on a number of important players, including Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, the 2 players that got them in this rich position.
One thing we do know, this was Marcus Mariota’s last time putting on a Titans jersey for the foreseeable future.
They’ll have a lot of money to spend at areas of need.
Pass rusher has to be at the top of the board for the Titans, although depth at corner, and offensive line have to be in thoughts as well.
Not to mention, there could be some changes on the staff of Mike Vrabel.
Dean Pees put off retirement last year, but could look to finally walk away this offseason.
Kerry Coombs has been in the rumor mill as well, with reports stating he could be in line for the Ohio State defensive coordinator job.
There also lies the problem of the simplicity within Arthur Smith’s scheme.
An offseason full of retooling will work well for Smith. He captured some magic in a bottle, but needs to hunt for more in order for this offense to find some sort of counterattack against the negatives that come with a run first offense.
Whether that’s finding more creativity in the passing game, or finding ways to get the ball in Derrick Henry’s hands a bit more but not in the conventional way, there has to be some work on the white board.
All in all, it’ll be an interesting offseason for the Titans.
We’ll be covering it all, starting with the Senior Bowl next week, free agency in March, and the draft in late April.
This was my first year covering any type of team, and it was a ride.
I learned a lot, made some mistakes, but still found my way having a lot of fun as the season chugged along.
I thank you all for reading, and hope you’ll find your way back to my writing for the 2020 season and beyond.
Last recap of the year, signing off.
Featured photo via Tom Pennington/Getty Images