The Tennessee Titans were embroiled in such a season two weeks ago and even lost to previously undefeated New York Jets as the brightest, ugliest spot on their record. But in the last seven days, they have beaten the two teams that played in the AFC Championship last season.
So who doubts the Titans are now competing for the AFC Championship?
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The Titans not only defeated the Chiefs but also defeated them on Sunday, winning 26-3 which was stunning in its thoroughness.
“When we win the game, people try to figure out all sorts of reasons why we’re not going to win the next game,” said safety Kevin Byrd. “But they never talk about how physical we are as a team.
“It may not be pretty, I think I saw a statistic like last week that said we won the most in the fourth quarter. It’s because of the physique and the way we play the game. Be nice at first but wear what the teams wear towards the end of the game. So, as I say, it’s great to win today. “
And with that the Titans, the leaders of the AFC South Race, are now feeling pretty good about themselves.
“Honestly, our confidence is always higher,” Byrd said.
(Yeah, sticking with Byrd because he got a roll – like his team).
“There is no team in this league that we don’t think we can beat [on] Any Sunday, ”he added.“ Power rankings, all these things, this league doesn’t really matter. You don’t come out here and perform on Sundays, you’re going to get behind your back. We know about the explosive team and how great Kansas City is but at the end of the day we thought we could go here and win.
“That’s the main line. We don’t really see who the best team is here and there. They’re not handing out the Lombardy Trophy in the middle of the season.”
The Titans had a built-in excuse not to play this game because they had a short week to prepare after playing and beating Buffalo on Monday night. But the schedule could actually work for them.
“We certainly used speed,” said receiver AJ Brown. “It’s just an approach, a mentality that we’ve brought to this game. We’ve got off to a pretty good start and continue and the defense has backed us up.”
Mike Vrabel, head coach of the Titans, a classic week-to-week guy, had none of this big picture contestant talk.
“We played seven games at 5-2,” he told reporters. “Thanks guys.”
The Titans had three takeaways, including one by linebacker Russian Evans. These turnovers helped turn the beating into something more.
It seems easy to beat, openly.
“You’re embarrassed,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahoms said later. “You spanked pretty well. You came here trying to build momentum the previous week and we didn’t, so I mean, it’s just trying to find a way to get better for next week because it pays. The league can be better and better if you want to go where you want to be. “
The Titans are the first defense that prevents the Chiefs from scoring in Mahomes’ game. The Titans limited Mahoms to a 72.3 QB rating, the lowest of his career.
“It’s definitely a great achievement,” said Harold Laundry, a linebacker outside the Titans. “With guys like Jeffrey Simmons and (Deniko Attri) in the middle, it certainly makes things easier on the edge.
“It’s a huge achievement. Mahoms is a great quarterback and they’re a great team. We’re definitely going to celebrate it tonight and then move on.
Amazing, isn’t it?
“No, to be honest we weren’t surprised at all,” Evans said, “just because of the hard work we put in throughout the week. What I’m guessing.
“All the countless hours of meetings, all the countless hours of practice, when it shows up in the game and that’s what you saw today.”
The Titans, perhaps the NFL’s third-best rashing offense, have done much better than passing football. They scored two of their three touchdowns through the air, one of which ran back to Derrick Henry.
Faced against Mahomes, Titans QB Ryan Tanhill performed even better. He was mostly perfect, completing 21 of 27 passes, including 1 touchdown and 1 interception for 270 yards.
Mahomes, meanwhile, had a rough day. He came into the game with more obstacles than anyone expected – he made 13 interceptions in his last 14 games – and it continued.
Mahomes throws an interception and pushes twice, losing one, so his team had two of the three turnovers.
The Titans fired Mahomes four times and eventually knocked him out of the game. Mahoms was placed in the NFL Concentration Protocol.
Mahomes cleared the connection protocol but coach Andy Reid decided it was best to keep him for the rest of the game.
“We had to drop turnover and fines,” Reed said of his hanging crime. “Again, these are things we didn’t do – we didn’t have in common. I see things I haven’t seen before. And we have to fix that.
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“And the players, they know it. And I’ve got a good locker room. And, again, they’ll continue it and the coaches will continue it. It starts with me. It’s entirely my responsibility and my fault how we played today. And, you know. “The coaches feel the same way about it. So we all want to tear it to pieces.”