There are many entertaining matchups to look towards for this week’s AFC Championship Game. Today, we will discuss the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs defense and the Tennessee Titans offense. Derrick Henry is on a monstrous hot streak and is difficult to tackle. That is likely the Chiefs number one priority to taking down the Titans offense on Sunday. What other areas are we watching for? Let’s find out by exploring the game strategies.
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War Of Attrition
Derrick Henry rumbled for 188 yards against Kansas City earlier this season. This includes a touchdown run of 68 yards. His cutback ability wore the Chiefs defense down. Also, there were too many missed tackles. We saw guys try to go low, but they dove to early. Or, defenders were too focused on trying to rip the ball out of his grasp.
Chiefs defensive players talked about Henry early this week. They know he is enjoying an unbelievable hot stretch. Furthermore, they discussed what it will take to stop him. Anthony Hitchens mentioned how they will need to “hit him low.” Tyrann Mathieu and others described how it does not matter how Henry looks in the first half. Why? Because he is just as strong of a runner in the second half.
Piggybacking off of that, this will be a full out fight. The Kansas City defense will continually be tested by the Tennessee offense to stop Henry. It will take determined tackling and all eleven defenders flying to the ball. Henry’s speed is incredible in the open field. Meanwhile, you have to stay in your lanes in order to avoid him cutting back on you.
The Titans run play action passes as well as most teams in the NFL. That is due to the dangerous attack of Henry. Ryan Tannehill has been aggressive. He has also thrived off of those deep throws off of play action. What has stood out the most out of Tannehill’s resurgence? His accuracy is pin point. The Chiefs must know that he will try to fit tight window throws.
Meanwhile, Kansas City’s defense may actually matchup well with this part of the Tennessee offense. If you look to a certain play last week, you can see the different abilities of Mathieu. There was one play where he looked as if he was blitzing, dropped back, and then forced Deshaun Watson out of bounds. The ability to confuse opposing quarterbacks has become common for the Chiefs defensive backs. As long as there are not lapses in coverage, the Kansas City defense may actually be set up well against the Tennessee play action offense.
On the other hand, pressuring Tannehill goes a long way in this case. The Titans offensive line is nasty up front. Yet, the Chiefs were successful in constantly providing pressure last game. We saw in the Wild Card round, where Tannehill threw up some ducks when rolling out or facing the blitzes. Defensive backs will have some chances for turnovers if the blitz is working.
Big Boy Football
In the playoffs, it is all about who brings more physicality to the table. The Kansas City defense has a big task at hand going up against the Tennessee offense in the trenches. Getting to the second level is no problem for the Titans offensive line. If Chris Jones returns, that will help to counteract that. Other guys in the middle like Mike Pennel, Derrick Nnadi and Khalen Saunders are capable of answering the bell when called upon. But overall, it is going to take strong defensive play for all four quarters.
Flip the coin, the Titans have no problem with toying with the opposition. Sweeps and tosses out in space, allow for guys like Taylor Lewan to do their magic in running over defenders. The key for the Chiefs up front will be to continue to attack. The Kansas City defense must stay aggressive to slow down the Tennessee offense.
What a turnaround it has been for the Tennessee Titans. As much credit as Henry garners, Tannehill is the one who really sticks out. Acquired in the offseason for nothing from the Miami Dolphins, Tannehill was an afterthought. Though after a disappointing start, Marcus Mariota was benched. Tannehill came through to turn their season around. He led the Titans to a 7-3 record as the starting quarterback. His statistics included a 70.3 completion percentage, 117.5 quarterback rating and 22 touchdown passes to just six interceptions. He even ran for 185 yards and four scores.
Just like Patrick Mahomes does for Kansas City, Tannehill brings hope and life to Tennessee. He has made the case to earn a big paycheck entering free agency this offseason. He is also the leader of the last team that handed the Chiefs a loss.
We mentioned earlier how Tannehill is not scared to take chances. The tight window pass attempts will never waiver. However, the blitz calls of Steve Spagnuolo could be the best way for Kansas City to counteract Tennessee. The dime package usage will be interesting to see. Because of Henry, it could be difficult for the Chiefs to utilize their most dynamic sub package. The Titans truly have all the tools to push KC to the limit on this side of the ball.
Be on the lookout for our other strategy article tomorrow, as we explore the matchup between the Kansas City offense and Tennessee defense. 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 Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.