The Kansas City Chiefs are hopeful that Patrick Mahomes will be able to suit up this weekend as the Chiefs face off with the Tennessee Titans. Even if Mahomes can’t go in this particular game, Matt Moore has proven quite productive in place and should be able to find success against a Titans defense that has been solid but not spectacular.
The Chiefs offense has been executing at a high level even with a backup quarterback leading the charge, so this game doesn’t seem like one that should slow down the Chiefs offense too much.
The Chiefs should have all their offensive weapons and starting quarterback healthy for the first time since the first quarter of Week 1.
Let’s take a look at the Titans defense and how the Chiefs can attack it:
Tennessee Titans defense
The Titans defensive front is loaded with a good bit of talent, but Jurell Casey is not practicing after missing last week’s game with a shoulder injury. Jeffery Simmons also missed practice on Thursday with a hamstring injury that popped up in the middle of the week. Flanking outside is Cameron Wake and Harold Landry, who can provide a good pair of speed rushers if they are allowed to pin their ears back. If the entire Titans defensive line is healthy, they are the definite strength of the team, but the injuries limit their versatility and effectiveness.
The second level has a good run defender in Rashaan Evans paired with a better coverage linebacker in Jayon Brown. They are both incredibly aggressive and often bite on play-action and can easily get pulled out of their zones.
The Titans secondary has some quality talent, but as a whole, they have played above average. The Titans’ best outside cornerback — Malcolm Butler — is now out for the season. They still field Logan Ryan, who is a very good cornerback that plays a lot in the slot, as well as All-Pro safety Kevin Byard. The Titans mostly ask for their defensive backs to play zone but will occasionally kick to man as a change-up.
Using bunch formations
The Titans have some major issues defending Trips formations, especially when the offense bunches up their receivers.
The Titans have had some issues covering trips, especially out of a bunch this year. Their zone rules can be exploited with that volume of receivers to one side of the field— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 7, 2019
1: Smash concept that forces the CB to choose
2: Challenge MoF coverage, challenge LB w/seam & curl pic.twitter.com/ggkPrzGp2J
The Titans’ most common pass coverage is a Match Quarters variation that most often doesn’t have a player occupying the shallow flats. This places their outside cornerbacks in a bind if threatened both underneath and vertically. On the first play above, it’s a Smash concept with an out and corner route to the same side of the field. This forces the cornerback to pick which one to cover. As the cornerback gets depth underneath the corner route, the out route breaks wide open.
The second play shows how to attack the Titans’ zone up the middle of the field from the bunch formation. The outside cornerback is occupied by the out route while the hook defender — the linebacker — is forced to decide between walling the seam route or driving on the hitch route underneath. The blitzing linebacker opens up the field some, but as long as the quarterback is willing to split safeties down the middle, the throw is available.
Even running this overload hook concept out of the bunch overwhelms the Titans' zone. It's a tighter window throw but there are three WRs stopping in two defenders zones.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 7, 2019
CB is forced to play under the outside WR and try to drive on the inside curl. pic.twitter.com/tknMimvYQB
The Titans try to mix up their pre-snap looks to show man coverage but then drop out into their zone coverage as the ball is snapped. The throwing window is tight, but the same three receivers-against-two defenders principle is exploited.
Titan's look for adjustments but if it wasn't for poor reads by the QB, they wouldn't be working out— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 7, 2019
Instead of throwing behind the blitz to the bunch side, the ball goes to the isolated TE despite two players from the bunch being open. pic.twitter.com/pBAuPMgSD1
While searching for a way to slow down the bunch formations, the Titans tried sending a nickel blitz from the bunch side. The quarterback has to know to look behind the blitz, as the numbers will definitely be in the offense’s favor. The safety has to buzz down to replace the nickel defensive back, which pushes the outside cornerback to a deep zone and results in the out route breaking free again. Both the safety and the cornerback have to respect the vertical release of the post route, leaving the outside wide receiver wide open.
Facing trips - w/o a bunch - the Titans are in man. Motion into a stack to create a natural double pick for the slant underneath by the outside WR.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) November 7, 2019
Motion to I.D. man then send the pick under, free first down +. pic.twitter.com/7Cjq3DMzwF
A stacked formation with a third wide receiver split out wide (not exactly a bunch) can create the same dilemma for the Titans defense. Using the returned motion, man coverage is confirmed pre-snap and the offense should know the slant coming off the double rub route is going to be open.
The Titans have a talented secondary, but they are better in zone coverage than man coverage and they are usually only going to man coverage as a change-up. When the Chiefs identify man coverage pre-snap, they should look to use their team speed to take advantage horizontally as the Titans are often using both safeties deep over the top.
The bottom line
The Titans defense looks talented on paper, and they are well-coached under Mike Vrabel, but the results have fallen short of what many expected.
With the Titans’ injuries starting to pile up, the Chiefs should be able to find success moving the ball against the defense. The Chiefs should be able to attack the Titans’ zone with bunch formations and challenge their zone rules with plenty of success.
If they are willing to throw the ball into tighter windows they should be able to find success up the seams and outside the numbers as the Titans work to adjust to the bunch looks throughout the game.