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WILDCARD GAME RECAP: Titans Shock Chiefs, Falcons Hold Off Rams

Titans 22, Chiefs 21

What a wild game.

The Kansas City Chiefs were leading the Tennessee Titans 21-3 at halftime. Alex Smith was on fire, and the defense was holding Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Titans offense.

Then the second half started.

The Titans controlled the ball during the final two quarters, holding the Chiefs offense to just 20 snaps and scoring 19 unanswered points to come away with a 22-21 win. It’s the second time the Chiefs have blown an 18 point lead in the playoffs under head coach Andy Reid.

Mariota struggled early on, tossing a bad interception to Marcus Peters and looking generally uncomfortable in the pocket. Credit has to go to him for turning things around down the stretch. He finished with 205 yards on 19 for 31 passing with 2 touchdowns, the second to himself on a wacky play midway through the third. Mariota also scrambled 8 times for 46 yards and laid a key block on a running play during the team’s final drive to ice the game.

Delanie Walker led the team in receiving with 6 catches for 74 yards. The first passing TD went to Eric Decker (2 catches, 21 yards). Derrick Henry was brilliant, rushing 23 times for 156 yards and a TD.

Many people may lay the blame on Smith for yet another playoff loss, but he did all he could. His final numbers were 264 yards and 2 TDs on 24 for 32 passing. The offense visibly struggled after tight end Travis Kelce (4 catches, 66 yards and a TD) left the game with a concussion before halftime.

Tyreek Hill was a monster early on, but the Titans secondary keyed in on him following Kelce’s departure. Hill ultimately ended up with 7 catches for 87 yards. Demarcus Robinson chipped in with 57 yards and a TD on 4 receptions.

Another reason for the Chiefs offense’s hiccups after the first half was a lack of Kareem Hunt. The rookie running back and the NFL‘s leader in rushing yardage had just 5 carries after the first quarter; he had 42 yards and a TD on 11 rushes overall. Offensive coordinator Matt Nagy‘s decision to exclude him was certainly questionable and could affect him during his job interviews elsewhere.

The fifth-seeded Titans will have to wait to see who they play next weekend. They’ll play the Pittsburgh Steelers if the Buffalo Bills win tomorrow or the New England Patriots if the Jacksonville Jaguars are victorious.

Falcons 26, Rams 13

Early on, it looked like the Atlanta Falcons were going to easily handle the Los Angeles Rams. They led 13-0 early in the second quarter and had the advantage over a sluggish Rams offense.

Thankfully, the Rams made it close by narrowing the score to 13-10 before halftime. In the second half though, the Falcons held their opponents to a lone field goal and duplicated their first-half output, walking away with a 26-13 victory.

Matt Ryan led an efficient Falcons offense, putting up 218 yards and a TD through the air on 21 for 30 passing. The bulk of this throws went to Julio Jones (9 catches, 94 yards and a TD) and Mohamed Sanu (4 catches, 75 yards). Devonta Freeman chipped in with 18 carries for 66 yards and a TD on the ground.

The Rams killed themselves with two special teams turnovers in the first quarter, causing them to fall behind. They pulled things together during the middle part of the game but could not overcome the Falcons lead late in the game. Most of their mental errors can be chalked to a lack of playoff experience, something the opposition doesn’t have. It’s a disappointing end to an upstart season.

Jared Goff had an equal number of shaky and impressive moments in his first career postseason game. He had 259 yards and a TD on 24 for 45 passing. Robert Woods had a few mistakes but was brilliant otherwise, catching 9 throws for 142 yards. The TD went to rookie Cooper Kupp, who put up 69 yards on 8 catches.

Todd Gurley is still an MVP candidate, and he ran very well last night, but the Falcons defense got a lot of their success by shutting him out of the passing game. He still had 101 rushing yards on 14 carries.

The sixth-seeded Falcons will stay on the road next weekend, as they face off against the top team in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles. If they play like they did against the Rams, they’re sure to at least compete.

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