Clash with the Titans: turnovers are key to winning

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

From the FanPosts -Joel

After being one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season, Tennessee brought in Gregg Williams to get the defense into shape. He's done that, and the 3-1 Titans are one of the pleasant early season surprises in the NFL. One of the biggest reasons for their turnaround is their turnover differential. Last season the Titans had a -4 TO margin, this season they are tied with the Chiefs for the best mark in the NFL at +9.

Tennessee's defense wasn't bad at creating turnovers last year, they had 19 INT's and recovered 5 fumbles, but the offense couldn't hold onto the ball. Titans QB's threw 16 INT's last season, with Jake Locker throwing 11 in 11 games. (The Titans as a team also fumbled 15 times, recovering 9 of them, suggesting they were slightly lucking in recovering fumbles. Because fumbles are largely 50/50 propositions, I won't spend too much time discussing them.)

The most impactful improvement from a year ago has been the improvement of Jake Locker. Until he was injured last week, he had yet to throw an interception this season. Now that he is out, Former Harvard Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick takes over. Joel suggested that there won't be much drop off from Locker to Fitzpatrick, but I respectfully disagree. Yes, at times he looked good against the Chiefs the past few seasons, but no one can argue this is the same Chiefs defense he faced during his time in Buffalo.

The biggest question for the Chiefs' defense now is how much are the Titans going to lean on the running game to take pressure off Fitzpatrick? The Titans are averaging 33.75 rush attempts per game, against 29.75 pass attempts per game. For as much faith as Mike Munchak has expressed in Fritzpatrick, they should still be a run-heavy team this week, and probably more so than in past games.

For as much as talent as Chris Johnson used to have, he hasn't been effective this year. He brings a 3.3 yards per carry average into Sunday, with his longest run being 23 yards (he's also not a threat out of the backfield, with 4 catches on 5 targets for 12 yards). If you take away the Philly game, in which the Eagles ran for 264 yards against the Chiefs, the Chiefs' defense is holding opposing backs to 3.4 yards per carry. (The Eagles averaged 9.7 per carry, which isn't exactly something to be embarrassed about as LeSean McCoy is averaging 117 yds/g this season, and the Eages have the best rushing offense in the NFL.) Including the Philly game, the Chiefs are 31st in the NFL giving up 5.4 yards per attempt. However, I think the 3.4 figure is closer to their true talent than the 5.4 mark. Johnson certainly isn't McCoy, especially not this season, and he'll probably have a tough go of it against the Chiefs.

The real conundrum Munchak faces is how to attack the Chiefs' defense. The Chiefs have given up the third fewest passing yards in the NFL this season, are tied for the fewest yards per attempt at 5.8, and are second in yards per game at 189. If the Titans try early to establish the run, the Chiefs will be able to stack seven or eight men in the box. The Chiefs should be able to put the Titans into 3rd-and-long situations, which is where they thrive. If the Chiefs can get a comfortable lead (10 points or more), Fitzpatrick will be forced to do more in order to get them back in the game. The problem for the Titans in that scenario is Fitzpatrick doesn't handle pressure well; in the last two seasons as the Bills QB he threw 39 INT's.

If the Chiefs are able to pressure Fitzpatrick they will be able to force him into bad throws. If they can get to him early in the game it will be hard for him to get into a rhythm with his receivers (he was 3-for-8 against the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!! last week in relief of Locker). The Titans' success has been built largely on their ability to not turn the ball over, mostly due to improvement by Locker. The Chiefs have the defense to win the turnover battle this week, thereby crippling the Titans offensively. Look for the Chiefs to once again have a positive turnover margin, coming away from Tennessee with a shiny 5-0 record.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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