KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota turned in one of the rarest and most bizarre plays in his team's dramatic 22-21 wild-card playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday, completing a pass to himself for a touchdown.
It occurred on Tennessee's opening drive of the second half, with the Titans trailing the Chiefs, 21-3. The Titans faced a third-and-goal from the 6-yard line. Mariota broke containment in the pocket and rolled to his left, scanning the field for a receiver. He saw Corey Davis in the end zone and fired the ball his way.
Chiefs cornerback Darrelle Revis, however, batted the ball away. It caromed off his hands toward Mariota, who grabbed the deflected ball while it was still in the air and raced toward the pylon for a touchdown.
"It's hard to explain," Mariota said. "I really got lucky there and was trying to make a play, trying to give Corey a chance there. I think it was Revis who batted it up there and made a good play, and I kind of was at the right place at the right time."
Mariota becomes just the second player in league history to complete a pass to himself for a touchdown. Minnesota quarterback Brad Johnson pulled off the feat on Oct. 12, 1997, against the Carolina Panthers.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said he had a front-row view of the historic play.
"I was looking right at it," he said. "Things happen. The ball bounced right for him."
Mariota was close to the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball, but a passer's entire body would have to be beyond the line of scrimmage for it to be an illegal pass. Mariota seemed to have at least one foot behind the line of scrimmage when he let the ball go.
--Saturday's playoff game pivoted on several key officials' calls regarding forward progress, with each call negating a potential turnover and a score for the Chiefs.
One play before Titans kicker Ryan Succop hit a 49-yard field goal, Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson blitzed up the middle and drilled Mariota for a 9-yard loss. The ball came loose, and the Chiefs appeared to recover the fumble.
Officials ruled the play dead, however, determining Mariota's forward progress stopped before the ball came loose. Rulings regarding forward progress cannot be reviewed.
"The defender hit him and he was driving him back," referee Jeff Triplette said.
"I don't know how you can call a guy down or blow the whistle when he didn't hit the ground yet, especially on a sack," Johnson said.
The Titans later attempted a two-point conversion after taking a 22-21 lead. Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen sacked Mariota again, and the ball came loose. Frank Zombo returned the fumble 58 yards for an apparent defensive score. Again, however, officials ruled Mariota's forward progress stopped before the fumble.
"(Sorensen) turned him around once and turned him around a second time and kept driving him back," Triplette said. "You just rule forward progress at that point. Play is over."
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey defended both calls.
"I thought they did a good job of making the right calls," Mularkey said. "I'm critical of them a lot, but the times that there were critical calls, they got it right and I'll give them credit for that."
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, somewhat diplomatically, disagreed.
"I can't go there," Reid said. "Everything I say, those guys are protected. You go talk to them. Question them."
--Speculation about Mularkey and his future with the Titans swirled before the game, and both the coach and his players hit back hard about the reports after the game.
"Coach Mularkey has done an incredible job of handling this entire situation," Mariota said, "and I think he's done a great job of keeping this team together, keeping us on our task at hand. He's done a great job."
Mularkey called the discussions of his job "ridiculous," but admitted it affected him.
"I don't think it's fair to my family," Mularkey said. "When it has an effect on my family, it has an effect on me. So, yeah, I'd say it had a big effect on me."
But the coach admits the Titans organization didn't give him any reason to feel secure.
"No, I haven't had any support to say that I was," Mularkey said. "No, I just assumed the worst."
--The Chiefs head to the offseason facing questions about the future of several veteran players, especially quarterback Alex Smith. The Chiefs made a draft-night deal last April to land Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 selection, and his opportunity could come next season.
Smith has one year remaining on a four-year contract extension signed in 2014. He carries a salary-cap number of $20.6 million in 2018, but the club could save $17 million in cap space by trading or releasing the 13-year veteran.
For his part, however, Smith said he prefers staying in Kansas City.
"Yeah, I mean you kidding me?" Smith said. "I signed a contract, I'm under contract for another year. I'm not thinking about anything else.
"Right now obviously disappointed. I felt like we had a good chance and it's gone, it's over."
The Chiefs also face decisions regarding veteran linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali. Johnson also has a year remaining on his contract counting $10.25 million toward the salary cap, but the Chiefs can trim $8 million in cap space by moving on from the 35-year-old. Johnson said he plans to return home to Texas with his family and relax before determining his future.
"I'm definitely playing ball again," Johnson said. "That's not a question. But it's not the time to talk about where I'm going to be playing. I'm a Chief. I've been in this league 13 years. Opportunities like this don't come around a lot."