Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified the team of running back Derrick Henry.
That information could not have come at a worse time.
Kansas City fans were left with only that to play for the next six months after Saturday's loss to the Tennessee Titans. But they didn't let it affect them. Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters intercepted Mariota to snuff out a second-quarter trip to the red zone, and Tennessee managed only a field goal before halftime. But Kelce had to sit out the second half after sustaining a concussion in the second quarter, and the Chiefs never recovered.
Kelce didn't return to the game and the Chiefs struggled offensively in the second half. His absence changed the game. The Titans kept the ball and kicked a field goal to cut the Chiefs' lead to 14-3. The Chiefs led 21-3 at the half, but the offense went cold and the defense became a sieve in the final 30 minutes. But as has been the case for the duration of Mularkey's two-year tenure as Titans head coach, his team did not quit in a game where many would. Defensive back Darrelle Revis batted the pass, Mariota caught it and dove into the corner of the end zone. No one could hardly believe it.
Tennessee almost squandered its momentum when Adoree Jackson fumbled a punt, but the Chiefs were unable to pick up a first down and Butker knocked a 48-yard field goal off the upright. The Titans failed to convert the two-point conversion, but momentum was firmly on their side. On the drive, Mariota converted three third downs, two through the air and one on a nifty scramble to the right for 17 yards. He capped it by throwing a TD pass to himself, the first player to accomplish the feat in playoff history. That includes Smith, who was benched by the San Francisco 49ers before being traded to the Chiefs in 2013. Eager to melt the clock, the Titans put the ball in Henry's gut. Henry finished with 156 yards on 23 carries.
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On the following play, Henry was knocked down behind the line of scrimmage by Marcus Peters, who stripped him of the ball after Henry was already down.
The play was blown dead, and the Chiefs used a timeout to stop the clock.
The Titans, who needed a win in their regular-season finale to earn a wild-card spot, took the lead for the first time with just over 6 minutes left in the game on Marcus Mariota's 22-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker.
In the first half, the Chiefs looked every bit the team that had won four straight in convincing fashion, and the Titans looked every bit the team that backed into the playoffs. Smith and the Chiefs beat Brian Hoyer and the Houston Texans two years ago. It was just a bit more important this time around.
Depending on the results of Sunday's game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills, the Titans will face either New England or Pittsburgh in the divisional round next, with a chance to reach the conference championship game for the first time since after the 2002 season.