Titans Anguish: Do Henry Or Defense Harm More?

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Dec 6, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) rushes against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Tennessee won 30-90. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs will get set to host the Tennessee Titans this week in the AFC Championship Game. The cinderella story team has the ability to pull off another upset on Sunday. However, there are differing opinions as to why the Titans are so dangerous. Which one presents a bigger problem for how the Chiefs are built? Today, we will argue for and against both the running game of Derrick Henry and the Tennessee defense.

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King Henry

It is not that difficult to make the case for Derrick Henry. He is easily one of the top two or three running backs in the league, if not the best. How? Defenders have the most difficult time trying to bring him down. Very rarely, can opponents bring Henry down one on one. If you can get a gang to corral him, it is not always a guarantee that he will go down. Most of all, Henry is so aware of when to cutback in running lanes and forcing tacklers to move laterally.

That is part of the reason the Chiefs had trouble with him in the earlier meeting this season. Henry cutback and left the safety in the dust after a miss tackle, one on one. The zone running concept is a style that does not bode well for Kansas City. Honestly, the Chiefs would be better suited to stack the box. As long as they can stay in check for play action, stacking the box is not a problem.

Furthermore, the Titans offensive line is a nasty, hard nosed group. Their front five reaches the second level by playing big bully football. The physical nature is what pushes teams further in the postseason. With the way this offensive line is built, they mix well with the size and style of Henry. The numbers from his last eight games are out of this world. Henry has accumulated 1,273 total yards, 6.53 yards per touch and 12 touchdowns. He is the driving force that many people believe will be the top priority for the Chiefs to handle this week.

Nothing Is Impossible

Despite the insurmountable odds of successfully stopping Henry, it is not out of the question. Before the Chiefs and Titans met earlier this season, he had just one 100 yard rushing game. Teams like the Bills, Broncos and Jaguars all found success in shutting Henry down. Amazingly, the Broncos held him to just 1.9 yards per carry and his longest carry was for just 6 yards.

Don’t underestimate the Chiefs front seven either. They have their lapses in tackling. However, this group shows up in big moments or when everyone has counted them out. If Kansas City gets Chris Jones back for this game, that presents one more problem that the Tennessee offense will have to account for. We know Steve Spagnuolo loves to get creative with his defense. Don’t be surprised if Tyrann Mathieu or Daniel Sorensen are placed near the line of scrimmage when the Chiefs try to stack the box. If you cannot imagine that, go back and look at the Chiefs win at the Broncos. They turned it around and frustrated Phillip Lindsay.

Simple, But Complex

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How is the Titans defense a problem? They are comfortable in changing things up, while not having to stick to a base defense. Tennessee attacked the Patriots offense differently than they did the Ravens offense. Against the Pats, they forced Tom Brady to beat them by using the outside of the field. They were determined to not let the Patriots consistently beat them over the middle, whether it was via the run or the pass. Additionally, Tennessee was creative with their blitz calls. Harold Landry is an underrated younger player who is starting to become a hotter commodity in this playoff run. Moreover, Jurrell Casey and rookie Jeffery Simmons are quickly becoming a dangerous defensive tackle duo.

On the other hand, they forced the Ravens to alter what they wanted to accomplish. Lamar Jackson and the run game was getting shut down. As a result, Jackson passed the ball more than he had throughout the entire season. Dropping back 59 times is not easy going up against this underappreciated secondary. When Jackson tried to scramble, the Titans did an unbelievable job in spying him and forcing him to move laterally. He hardly had room to run north. They make it look simple, but overall, the Titans have a complex defense at all three levels. Mike Vrabel has really been one of the more underrated coaches.

Body Of Work

When you look at both the playoff wins for the Titans, it was still closer than what some people may say. The Patriots had a chance to score all game long. Meanwhile, the Ravens ran a lot of plays and had a healthy number of drives. This was despite what people believe in Tennessee as a chew the clock offense. They can go on long, straining drives. But, the defense is not always able to fully regather themselves.

We saw how quickly the Chiefs pounced on the Texans. Once they got on a roll, the Texans had no idea where Patrick Mahomes was going with the football. There is so many ways in which Kansas City can beat you. You can lean on Travis Kelce‘s wiggles against zone coverage. Or, the speed Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman possess is able to beat any defender in the league. Think back to the first matchup. Mahomes looked very comfortable against the Titans in his return from injury. We also saw the Chiefs have one of the their better days in the red zone against the Texans. How good is Tennessee’s defense in the red zone? It ranks second to last in the league. They have allowed touchdowns at a 68.1 percent rate.

The Mental Game

Again, give the Titans a ton of credit for the playoff run so far. However, the Chiefs are a much hotter team. Kansas City has won seven consecutive games, while Tennessee’s win streak sits at three. The Titans defense and Derrick Henry can both present a multitude of problems to get transfixed on. Yet, there is ways to beat them. Mahomes and the Chiefs offense could actually be the best defense against Henry as well. Just look at Sunday. If KC can score at a rapid pace and play keep away while under control, Tennessee will have to alter plans. This likely takes the rock out of Henry’s grasp and forces the Titans receivers to consistently beat the Chiefs secondary. Soon enough, the opportunity for the Chiefs to get revenge will come.

Be on the lookout for more Chiefs articles throughout this week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.

– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.

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