2019 AFC Championship: What Went Wrong for the Titans
Welp – that’s all she wrote. The 2019 AFC Championship is in the books. After defeating the Tennessee Titans 35-24, the Kansas City Chiefs win the AFC and will represent the conference in Super Bowl LIV. Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy had a hell of a game plan. The players executed, and the team hoisted the Lamar Hunt Trophy because of it. But, after jumping out to 10-0 lead, it’s fair to ask, “what went so wrong for the Titans?”
Namely, the Chiefs beat the Titans at their own game. Things just didn’t go the way they had previously gone against the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. The formula was simple – get a lead and have Derrick Henry close out the game. The question of what they’d do if that didn’t work was in the back of our collective minds, and we got that answer yesterday. Down 17-7, the Chiefs roared back to take the lead, and then were content to run the ball and play defense.
Patrick Mahomes was fantastic. The guy’s a generational talent at the quarterback position, and can make any throw in the book. To be frank, the game plan on defense allowed Mahomes to make plays. For whatever reason, Dean Pees dropped his pass rushers into coverage and only rushed three on numerous occasions, and Mahomes made the Titans pay for it. So, I think it’s fair to criticize the strategy there.
For the most part, the Titans defended Tyreek Hill about as well as they could’ve. He had two touchdowns in the game, sure, but the first one came from eight yards out. The second one was more of a byproduct of a laser throw by Mahomes. Outside of those two catches, he only had 39 yards on three catches! Travis Kelce was a non-factor, hauling in just three catches for 30 yards. They played well against Mecole Hardman as well (one catch, eight yards).
The problem is that you can just keep going on down the list of Chiefs play-makers. There’s so much speed on that offense…so much talent…that it takes an incredible amount of depth on defense to match talent with talent. If you get Tramaine Brock or Wesley Woodyard one on one with Hill – that’s a problem. You have to be focused at all times or else Mahomes is eventually going to find somebody. That somebody yesterday was Sammy Watkins, who converted a couple of critical first downs, and finished the game with seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. The Titans simply didn’t have enough horses to match up with all of the weapons on the Chiefs offense.
On offense, the Titans came out way too vanilla in the second half. It was as if Arthur Smith was completely frazzled. I understand you want to “dance with the girl that brought ya” and all, but when Henry is constantly being met with extra bodies at the line of scrimmage….when the Chiefs defense is giving you goal line looks from your own 40 yard line….that’s an indicator that maybe you should’ve tried something different a little sooner.
Plays were there to be made against the Chiefs secondary, but a tad bit of stubbornness from the Titans brass cost them valuable time.
I’ll mention the officiating, too. I’m not usually a proponent of the “fix is in” line of thinking – but I think it’s fair to mention that at least a couple of highly questionable calls negatively effected the Titans in critical stages of the game. The Titans are responsible for putting themselves to be so negatively effected by officiating mistakes, but I think Titans fans would surely like to get some answers from the NFL Officiating team as to just what those calls were about.
Ultimately, the 2019 AFC Championship was all about the Mahomes and the Chiefs. They absolutely outplayed the Titans and deserve the AFC berth in the Super Bowl. They’ll shift their attention to the San Francisco 49ers in two weeks. Meanwhile, the Titans are at a bit of a crossroads. Was this AFC Championship run the culmination of four years of 9-7 work? Or, is this the beginning of something great?
Time will tell.
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley