KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)Derrick Henry was rumbling his way through the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense, and through the Titans’ history books, during a first half that went exactly the way Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel dreamed it would Sunday night.
The second half was more like a nightmare.
After he had run for nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, the Chiefs sold out to stop him in the second, forcing Titans backup quarterback Malik Willis to try to beat them instead. And when he struggled to move Tennessee through the air, that gave Kansas City the opening it needed to tie the score late in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs proceeded to win the coin toss in overtime, moved swiftly downfield with the help of a couple of crucial plays, and Harrison Butker’s go-ahead field goal proved to be the difference in a heart-stopping 20-17 victory.
”We didn’t execute,” Henry said. ”They played better than we did in the second half.”
Henry was held to 22 yards on seven carries in the second half. Willis was 2 of 9 for minus-2 yards through the air. And the Titans had 38 yards total offense and one first down over the final 30 minutes of regulation.
”There are no moral victories,” Vrabel said. ”We came here to win. That’s all we were thinking about doing. Yeah, there’s more that I could do, more that the coaches could do and the players.”
The Titans in fact had one last chance after Butker’s kick, but things went about as well as they did for Willis throughout the second half. Henry was stuffed on first down, then Willis was sacked on consecutive plays, before his throw on fourth down was batted down to send the Chiefs streaming off the bench in celebration.
Forgotten in the drama of the Chiefs’ late comeback was Henry’s latest spectacular performance.
After running for 219 yards and two touchdowns last week against Houston, the bruising running back moved past Earl Campbell and into first place in franchise history Sunday night with 74 career touchdown runs.
Henry also became the fifth running back since 1950 to have at least 17 games with 100 yards rushing and two TDs in their first seven seasons in the league. And the others to do it are good company: Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson, Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith and former MVP Shaun Alexander.
The problem on Sunday night was Henry didn’t have any help.
After missing last week’s game against the Texans, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was limited by his sore ankle Wednesday and Friday while missing Thursday’s practice entirely. He tried to warm up before Sunday night’s game, but it was clear by the way he was unwilling to put any pressure on the offending ankle that he wouldn’t be able to go.
Willis got the nod for the second straight week. And it wasn’t a whole lot better than his first career start, when he was 6 of 10 for 55 yards with an interception against the Texans.
He made a couple of nice throws early in the game, but when the Chiefs made the Titans one-dimensional in the second half, Willis failed to produce. He finished just 5 of 16 for 80 yards while adding 40 yards on the ground.
The Titans had 245 yards total offense, the fifth time they’ve been held to 255 or less this season.
”We were getting points on drives and we were finding ways to do it,” Willis said, ”whether it was in the run game or the pass game. We were just trying to find ways to win regardless, whatever it took.”
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