The Kansas City Chiefs will be taking on the Tennessee Titans this Sunday for the AFC Championship. This is a game the Chiefs should win and win by double digits.
The most important key to a Chiefs victory on Sunday is that everyone on the team shows up healthy. This sounds like an obvious thing but take a look back to week ten. In that game, Eric Fisher was out. Patrick Mahomes, Frank Clark, Chris Jones, Tyreek Hill, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif were all dealing with injuries. During the game, Cameron Erving and Mitchell Schwartz were both injured and spent time on the sidelines before coming back in.
Compare that to Sunday’s game when the only injury is to Chris Jones. The Titans barely won that game in Tennessee with all those guys playing at far less than 100%. All of them just showing up to the ballpark healthy automatically gives them a head start over their last matchup.
Once the game kicks off the first thing the Chiefs will need to do is to not start out slow. Unlike some other analysts, I am not saying they need to start fast, they just can’t start slow. Of course, the best-case scenario is to jump out to a quick 21-0 lead, but they don’t need that. To win the Chiefs need to just play good solid football in the first quarter.
This is a high-pressure game inside a stadium that is going to be as crazy as it’s ever been. The adrenaline will be running at a maximum level and the Chiefs just need to get through the first quarter without any hiccups. They need to control their emotions and anxiety level and stay as even as they can. No overthrows, no drops, no muffs. This will be a key to getting out to a good lead.
That big lead will be important in stopping the Titans’ most dangerous weapon, Derek Henry. We all know the Titans’ only chance of winning is for Henry to have a monster game. Despite what you’ve heard from nearly everyone else, the Chiefs can not only slow Henry down, but they can stop him.
It won’t be easy though and it will take a full team effort. As I already mentioned, the offense can do their part by picking up where they left off against the Texans. A running game won’t be able to keep up with that offense and so the Titans will be forced to throw. This will take the ball out of Henry’s hands even if he’s being productive.
The offense, even if hot, will take a quarter or two in order to build the lead to force the Titans away from Henry. This means the second half will be the offense’s job, leaving the first half to the defense. The defense can do this in the same way they did the last time they faced the league’s leading rusher.
Against the Minnesota Vikings, the Chiefs had a dominant performance holding Dalvin Cook to only 71 yards on 21 carries. Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo put a game plan in that was dedicated to stopping the run. The game plan was simple, stop the run first, then worry about the pass. Linebackers always took their first step towards the line of scrimmage and didn’t hesitate to shoot gaps to the running back. It was also Mike Pennel’s first game action as a Chief. He brought a nastiness that the defense had been lacking.
The week after that Vikings game the Chiefs played the Titans and for some reason, Spags game plan did a complete 180. Pennel was a healthy scratch and defenders were thinking more than attacking. Henry proceeded to run for 188 yards in that game against that game plan. As long as Spags plays a run-heavy defense and doesn’t let Henry have his space to get ahead of steam, they’ll have done their first half job.
The final piece to the winning Chiefs’ game plan is to stay aggressive for 60 minutes. This step falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Andy Reid. Andy can’t settle for six field-goal attempts like they did back in week ten. They can’t be punting on 4th and four from the Titans 40 yards line.
Most importantly Andy can’t ever take his foot off the gas on offense. If someone needs to tell him we are down 24-0 before the game starts to get him in that mentality then so be it. The same style that put 51 points on the board against the Texans needs to be the style they play on Sunday.
If the Chiefs follow this game plan fans can spend the whole fourth quarter celebrating their first trip to the Super Bowl in 50 years. Rest easy Kansas City, the Chiefs are aware of all these points and they will have a game plan similar to this. I’m just glad Monday is a holiday because we are all going to party like its 1969 after Sunday’s win.