Written by special contributor John Glennon
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - When Ryan Succop's 53-yard field goal on the last play of the game traveled through the uprights, the Titans had defeated Kansas City 19-17 and captured a third straight victory for the first time since the 2011 season.
Here's a quick look at five points to ponder following the Titans' biggest victory in who knows how long:
THE BIG PICTURE – The Titans have put together two huge victories over the past two weekends – beating a pair of AFC powers in Denver and Kansas City – to move within two wins of claiming the AFC South title. How crazy does that sound, given the fact this team won a combined five games over the past two seasons? If Tennessee can defeat Jacksonville on the road and Houston at home, the Titans will be division champs and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Titans, barring any significant injury, will be favored to win both of those games. Per the fivethirtyeight.com website, the Titans currently have a 44 percent chance of reaching the postseason.
COMING THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH – Heading into the Titans' final two drives, it had been a rough afternoon for both quarterback Marcus Mariota and tight end Delanie Walker. But when the Titans really needed two of their biggest offensive names, they both came through. On Tennessee's last two drives, Mariota connected on 7-of-12 passes for 91 yards, guiding the Titans to one touchdown and one game-winning field goal. Walker had been silent throughout the contest, having caught just two passes for four yards to that point. But he found ways to get open on those last two drives, catching four of Mariota's seven completions for 51 yards. Walker produced two third-down catches, making one reception for 16 yards and another for 14 yards.
THE BIG STOPS --- The Titans' defense did a great job bailing out Tennessee's offense after what could have been two very costly turnovers. After a Mariota fumble in the second quarter, the Chiefs marched to the Titans' 1-yard line, but Spencer Ware was stuffed on two straight plays – once by Wesley Woodyard and once by Kevin Byard. The Titans, by the way, have a streak of nine straight stops now on opponents' third-and-one attempts. Later, after Kansas City took over after another Titans turnover, the defense came up with a second huge stop. This time, rookie cornerback LeShaun Sims intercepted Alex Smith's intended pass for Jeremy Maclin in the end zone. It was Sims' first career NFL interception.
QUESTIONABLE CALL – Though the Titans wound up with the victory, it's still reasonable to wonder whether Titans coach Mike Mularkey was correct in trying for a two-point conversion after Tennessee had trimmed Kansas City's lead to 17-16 with 3:12 remaining in the contest. A successful two-point conversion would have put the Titans ahead, obviously, but the Chiefs still would have had plenty of time remaining to drive for a winning field goal. In addition, Mularkey risked the chance that the Titans might never get the ball back when trailing – especially considering the team was out of time-outs. In the end, it all worked out for the Titans, who won on the last play of the game.
TURNOVER TEST FAILED – The Titans came into the game having gone four straight games without a turnover – their last turnover having come on Nov. 6. But they met their match in a Kansas City defense that entered the contest with 25 takeaways – tied for first in the NFL. The Chiefs forced a critical early turnover when Eric Berry knocked the ball away from Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews at the Kansas City 5-yard line. Daniel Sorensen returned the ball to the Chiefs' 47, and Kansas City took full advantage of the turnover – driving for a quick touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
The Titans suffered a second turnover when Mariota lost his first fumble since Nov. 6, but a great goalline stand by Tennessee's defense kept the margin at 14-7. Tennessee recorded a third offensive turnover when Mariota was picked again in the second half.