NASHVILLE — Don’t cancel the season just yet.
Trailing against the high-powered Chiefs, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit receiver Adam Humphries for a touchdown with 23 seconds left to take the lead. After Kansas City quickly got to within field goal range, Joshua Kalu blocked a 52-yard attempt as time expired, and the Titans somehow escaped Nissan Stadium with a 35-32 win on Sunday, keeping the slim playoff hopes alive.
Here are five observations as the Titans improved to 5-5 and beat a team with a winning record for the first time this season:
Ryan Tannehill, Joshua Kalu save the day
After Kansas City botched a field goal attempt, Tannehill led the Titans down the field on a four-play, 61-yard drive that culminated with the 9-yard touchdown pass to Humphries. On the two-point conversion try, Tannehill then absorbed a big hit before plowing ahead to put the Titans up by three.
The Chiefs got the ball back with less than 30 seconds to go. Patrick Mahomes quickly marched Kansas City down the field and into field goal range, but Kalu got a hand on Harrison Butker’s 52-yard attempt as time expired, sending Nissan Stadium into a frenzy.
Patrick Mahomes exploits banged-up Titans defense
No Jurrell Casey. No Malcolm Butler. No Jayon Brown.
All three of those key members of the Titans defense missed Sunday’s game due to injury (Butler is out for the year with a wrist injury), and the battered unit was picked apart by Patrick Mahomes, who was making his return after a two-game absence due to injury.
The Chiefs quarterback threw 27 passes in the first half (Titans QB Ryan Tannehill threw just seven), completing 21 of them for 213 yards and a touchdown.
He completed 36 of 50 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
A week after giving Derrick Henry just two carries in the first half, the Titans ran Henry nine times for 48 yards in the first half against the Chiefs, who entered with the 29th-ranked run defense.
And he was just getting started.
Henry ripped a 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, breaking a couple of tackles near the line of scrimmage before turning on the jets. It was the Titans’ longest run from scrimmage this season and their second longest play from scrimmage.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back finished with 23 carries for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
Rashaan Evans provides early spark
Defensive lineman Austin Johnson got initial contact, David Long forced the fumble, and Rashaan Evans did the rest.
The second-year linebacker scooped up the loose ball before flashing his first-round speed, taking it 53 yards for a touchdown that gave the Titans a 13-10 lead in the second quarter.
It was the first fumble recovery and touchdown of Evans’ career and a much-needed jolt for the Titans, who had turned the ball over earlier.
In the first quarter, Tannehill was sacked on third down, and the loose ball was picked up by the Chiefs. The turnover led to a 30-yard field goal by Butker that extended its lead to 10-0.
Taylor Lewan keeps committing penalties
A week after penalties were a significant issue for the Titans in their 30-20 loss at Carolina, they were much better early against the Chiefs, committing just one penalty in the first half Sunday.
It quickly got worse. The Titans committed three penalties in the first two and a half minutes of the third quarter, including two by left tackle Taylor Lewan on consecutive plays.
Lewan was called for unnecessary roughness before an offensive holding, effectively undoing the Titans’ first drive of the second half.
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Titans left tackle committed his third penalty of the game, a false start that turned a third-and-5 into a third-and-10 with Tennessee trailing by five points and looking to patch together a winning drive. Tannehill was sacked on the next play.
Lewan has committed nine penalties this season, most of any Titan despite being suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Depth guys show up
Neither is near the top of the depth chart at their respective positions, but wide receiver Kalif Raymond and tight end Anthony Firkser keyed a big Titans drive toward the beginning of the second quarter.
With the Titans down 10-0, Ryan Tannehill threw a bomb for Raymond, who dived to make the catch for a 52-yard gain. Raymond spent much of this season on the team’s practice squad.
The Titans capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Firkser.
Reach Erik Bacharach at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ErikBacharach.