In his first career postseason start, Tennessee Titans franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota put together an incredible second-half performance to complete a fourth-quarter comeback against 33-year old veteran Alex Smith in Saturday afternoon’s AFC Wild Card showdown.
After trailing 21-3 at the half, Mariota and the Titans — without RB DeMarco Murray suited up — put up 19 unanswered second-half points to erase the 18-point deficit and walk away with the 22-21 road victory at Arrowhead.
Mariota, now 1-0 in the postseason while Smith drops to 2-5 in seven playoff starts, finished with 205 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Better yet, one of those touchdowns went to himself.
With 6:31 to play in the third quarter, Mariota orchestrated a 15-play, 91-yard scoring drive that was capped with a six-yard touchdown pass to, yes, himself.
After a deflection from K.C. cornerback Darrelle Revis, Mariota snagged the ball before it hit the ground and snuck inside the pylon for six. The Ryan Succop extra point pulled Tennessee to within 21-10.
Fifty-two seconds into the fourth quarter, running back Derrick Henry scampered 35 yards for a touchdown. With the two-point conversion unsuccessful, Tennessee still trailed 21-16 but the momentum was on their side at that point in the game.
Eight minutes later, Mariota threw his second TD of the night on a 22-yard toss to veteran receiver Eric Decker. Another unsuccessful two-pointer handed the Titans its first lead of the night, and it would be all they’d need to pull away with the shocking 22-21 upset.
Mariota had a completed 180 in the second half, completing 12-of-18 passes for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters after he completed just seven of his 13 attempts for 82 yards and an interception in the first half of play.
The key to the game, aside from Mariota’s TD reception and game-winning touchdown, may just be the fact that Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid abandoned the run in the second half and squandered the 18-point lead as a result.
In total, the league’s leading rusher Kareem Hunt carried the ball just 11 times all game. Six of those carries came in the first half, which means, yes, Andy Reid held an 18-point lead in the second half yet only gave his star running back FIVE carries in the entire second half.
Classic Andy Reid move, as he completed his fifth one-and-done in the playoffs while the Titans move on to face either New England or Pittsburgh next week.
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