A year after a devastating home loss to the Chiefs in front of a home crowd at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFCCG, the Chiefs would once again have a chance to go to the Super Bowl. This would be the measuring stick game to see if an offseason of defensive overhauls and a full year of learning Steve Spanuolas’ scheme would pay off. Time to watch the film on how it all went down.
Early on it looked like the Titans were in business, with Ryan Tannehill completing a 37-yard pass to move the ball down the field for Tennesee. The Chiefs had Dan Sorensen playing a deep Safety but as Brown created separation from Bashaud Breeland he had a lot of room to catch and run. Tyrann Mathieu finally made the tackle. However, the damage was done and the Titans were off to a good start.
Here the Chiefs showed how badly they wanted to stop league-leading rusher Derrick Henry, who had gashed them back in November. The Chiefs deployed multiple looks within their front seven to stop Henry. Reggie Ragland is playing as a stand-up end with a three-technique and shade on the center to the play side. Rags does a good job of turning the ball back inside and Hitchens filled quickly for the stop.
The Titans would try to attack KC’s man coverage by trying to run a WR screen. Charvarious Ward and Mathieu are ready for it. Ward stays with his man as Mathieu lets him pass underneath before getting back on his man and nearly intercepts the throw away pass from Tannehill. This is high IQ football in a big-time game.
On this third down, Chris Jones erased all doubt he was ready to play. Jones executes a violent push-pull on the right guard to get in Tannehill’s face. This forces the QB to throw it away on a key early third down. The Titans would get a field goal out of the drive but the Chiefs seemed ready to go.
The Titans did get a few nice gains with Henry in the first half of play, this time in their favorite 13 personnel grouping. Good double teams to the backers give Henry a big lane but even on this rip, red jerseys still swarmed to prevent Henry from breaking the big run. This is the type of run he killed the Patriots and Ravens with in the first two games of the playoffs, as well as the Chiefs back in November.
This time the Chiefs stop Henry before he can get going. Damien Wilson walks up and is able to slip by the guard as Frank Clark is able to push the RT back into Henry giving him nowhere to run. Wilson makes the tackle and creates a pile giving Henry nowhere to escape. Stopping big backs like Henry early in plays is the recipe for success.
On this third and short Tennesee gets into a five-wide set. Late season pick up, Terrell Suggs, reads Tannehill’s eyes perfectly and gets his hands up to knock down the quick pass. Suggs is a future Hall of Famer making an outstanding veteran play and showing how big his pick up was for the team.
The Titans are able to get a big gain here while rolling Tannehill out. As the backers step up to cover Henry in the flat, the wheel route opens up and Tannehill connects for another 20+ yard completion. This is another chunk play but nothing deep. The Titans would eventually score to give themselves an early ten to nothing lead.
The Titans again go to the intermediate game for another big rip through the air. They catch the Chiefs blitzing while playing back deep in their zone but having their backers upfront to combat the run.
The Chiefs’ persistence to stop the run would again pay off. A power play is stuffed up the middle forcing Henry to bounce it, but Wilson is there for the stop. The Chiefs collapsed the Titan OL and did not allow an opening for Henry to get his speed going.
Suggs shoots the inside gap here but this opens up a big lane for the Titans who are running an iso-play here. Sorensen comes from about ten yards back to make the stop. This results in a five-yard gain. It could have been larger if not for Sorensen’s excellent open-field stop.
The Titans would run a wheel post combo with a flat route underneath. The Chiefs were in a good cover match concept to get man on man. Tannehill throws to the check-down but Mathieu was playing it all the way from his slot defender position. He ignites the crowd with a big hit for a loss of two yards. This is the kind of swagger and mentality the Chiefs had worked all year to have on defense and it was showing in the biggest game of the season.
Tennesee would go down to score this drive and they did so on a tackle eligible pass. KC was playing the run all the way as the eligible Kelly was able to pop open for an easy pass and catch. While the Titans did have an early ten-point lead the Chief’s defensive morale never waivered. They kept their confidence high and kept playing ball.
Chris Jones made his presence known in his few reps, this time with great run stuff. Defeating a double team causing Henry to try to cut back, but Suggs came flying in around Taylor Lewan for the stop. The Chiefs struggled in November to beat double teams but this time around they were able to create stalemates or flat out beat them to create plays for other players.
Jones and Suggs again make the big stop on Henry, this time with Jones winning his one on one to get to Henry. A gang tackle ensues with Suggs joining the party. KC was determined to not be outmatched physically again by Tennesee and the changes were working.
The motion by the offense causes the Chiefs to shift their backers over to get into position. As Rags and Hitchens fill the holes Mike Pennel and Clark stop Henry’s cutback for a loss on the play.
On this big third-down, the Chiefs run a good stunt to pressure Tannehill out of the pocket. Tannehill avoids Jones, but as he gets into the open field Dirty Dan delivers a big hit to stop him short of the line to gain. The swagger and confidence were on full display as the offense started to put points up. And the Chiefs found themselves in the lead.
The Titans ran a play-action off of their power set up but the Chiefs had it snuffed out. Good coverage downfield forced Tannehill to throw over to Henry as his check down. Wilson was on Henry all the way and he makes a big hit to stop him in his tracks. There was nowhere to go for Henry as the Chiefs swarmed.
On third down the Chiefs enlisted help from Tanoh Kpassagnon on a key pass rush down. Kpass uses his size and length to win his one on one and as the pocket collapses he crushes Tannehill for the big sack. KPass was once a question for a lot of Chiefs fans and the team, but he has found a home as a good rotational player on the Chiefs DL.
The Titans were desperate to get Henry into the open field and they tried to do so with a screen. However, the yards in front of him were significantly cut down when Sorensen came screaming from depth to make a huge stop for a loss of six. Dirty Dan wrapped up Henry at the legs and didn’t let the workhorse get free. Another potential huge gain was stopped before it could even get going.
On the final drive of the game, the Chiefs would run a zone blitz sending back an unlikely player into coverage. As the pocket starts to collapse Tannehill try’s to get rid of the ball, but KPass had dropped back into coverage and gets his arms up to stop the ball. A play we haven’t seen much from the Chiefs will be something the Chiefs have in their pocket going into the Super Bowl.
On the final defensive play of the game, Frank Clark gets his fourth sack of the postseason, on a nasty fake spin. Clark is finally playing to his full potential now that he is healthy. He will need to continue playing at such a high level for the Chiefs to win.
The Chief’s defensive overhaul paid off this year with it resulting in an AFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl. They are not done. If the defense can continue to play at this level they will have a great shot at beating the 49ers. A year ago the defense stopped the Chiefs from making the Super Bowl, this year they will play an integral role if they are to win the whole thing.