NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s hard to argue that just one play can decide the outcome of a 60-minute contest, but it appears that’s exactly what happened in Nashville on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs suffered their fourth loss of the season in Week 10, thanks to the Tennessee Titans and the left arm of defensive back Joshua Kalu.
The Chiefs had a chance to tie the game with a last-second, 53-yard field goal and head to overtime, but Kalu had different plans. The 24-year-old, who is playing in just his second game this season, got a great jump on the ball and was already up out of his stance as the ball was snapped. He got into the backfield so fast that it appeared he was offsides, but he was not. He blocked the kick as the clock hit triple zeros, and the Titans moved back to .500 with a 35-32 win.
“There was too much adrenaline in my body. Infinite adrenaline,” Kalu told reporters about what went through his mind when he felt the ball hit his hand. “Just happy — I knew what I just did and I can’t even put the words out there. I was happy. Extremely happy. Just happy. Not even for me, just for the team that we really needed this.”
Nissan Stadium exploded once fans realized the ball had been batted backward. It was the exclamation point on something that had been in the works for the past couple of minutes. Just two minutes earlier, the Chiefs were lining up for a field goal that would extend their lead to eight points. There was then a miscommunication between long snapper James Winchester and holder Dustin Colquitt, who had to throw the ball away once he realized a mistake was made.
“I looked back, Dustin was looking forward, then I started to see him look back, but I had already started the snap,” Winchester told reporters. “I tried to hold it, but yeah, it went fast. It was just miscommunication.”
Now with new life, Ryan Tannehill took the Titans 61 yards down the field in four plays, and hit wide receiver Adam Humphries for a 23-yard touchdown to take a one-point lead. Tannehill then took matters into his own hands for the two-point conversion, and ran it in himself to extend the lead to three points.
In a matter of about 60 seconds of game time, the Titans had turned a five-point deficit into a three-point lead. Tennessee then had a final chance to complete the comeback victory by stopping Harrison Butker’s 52-yard field goal. Sure enough, Kalu came through big, and the Titans celebrated an emotional victory over one of the most talented teams in the NFL.
Kalu’s huge play is something that the Titans can build off moving forward. Now at 5-5, the Titans are no longer in last place in the AFC South, and have a legitimate shot at rallying to earn a playoff bid. They just have to perform when it matters most — like they did on Sunday. There’s no doubt that the Titans have been incredibly inconsistent so far this season, but so have the other three teams in the AFC South. Just look at the division right now; Tennessee has a chance.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) and Houston Texans (6-3) were off this week, but the Indianapolis Colts were in action, and they suffered an embarrassing 16-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins — who were winless just two weeks ago. Whoever decides they want the division can take it at this point.
There could be some major shifts when it comes to the AFC South standings in the next few weeks. Four out of the Titans’ last six games are against AFC South opponents, with the other two games being against the red-hot Oakland Raiders and then the New Orleans Saints, who just suffered a shocking 26-9 defeat at the hands of the 2-7 Atlanta Falcons.
The NFL prides itself on parity, and we are reminded every week that anything can happen on any given Sunday. The teams who usually prevail are the teams that play their best football towards the end of the season and have a couple of emotional, close wins that they can point back to as examples of why they are candidates to make a deep postseason run.
After the game, Titans safety Kevin Byard spoke about how it’s all about staying in the fight and focusing on the objective directly in front of his team.
“We haven’t been consistent this year,” Byard said. “We haven’t played our best football sometimes, but one thing about this team, we battle our ass off. Every single game, no matter what happens, we battle our ass off. When things don’t go well, we just keep fighting and I think today was a true testament of it.”
What happened in Nashville on Sunday could be the start of something special for the Titans. Tannehill has proven he’s the man who should be under center moving forward, Derrick Henry put up a season-high 188 rushing yards and two scores and the Titans’ defense did enough to earn a victory over one of the most high-powered offenses in the league. All they need to do is re-focus and use the energy they created against the Chiefs to propel them moving forward.