On the AFC Championship preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we talked about three points on offense — and three on defense — to watch as the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Tennessee Titans in a battle for a spot in the Super Bowl.
The entire outlook of how this game is played can change if the Chiefs start fast offensively. Patrick Mahomes and the offense can put pressure on the Titans and force them to make decisions about how to navigate the game. The offense that showed up after the Texans jumped out to a 24-0 lead was relentless. The Chiefs presented the Titans with a variety of things to think about. If that version of the offense gets going early, the game plan for Tennessee could be thrown out the window.
Can the excellent pass protection continue?
The only sack surrendered by the Chiefs offensive line came on (checks notes) Sammy Watkins? Yes, the wide receiver ran out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage on a trick play and ruined the clean card for the guys up front. Quarterback and line were excellent in protection last week, which allowed the offense to get clicking with plays down the field. A similar performance up front, the season will continue in Kansas City.
The Chiefs went 7 of 8 in the red zone against the Texans. It may not be that high of a clip this week, but success in the money area of the field will be critical for the Chiefs to win. A lot of the success in the red zone was less about the play design and more about great players making plays when the design failed.
Patrick Mahomes really finished the comeback on a play where he had the presence of mind to drag his foot so it was behind the line of scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/CDW4MYKNsC— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) January 14, 2020
If Mahomes and Travis Kelce can repeat this effort outside of structure, so be it, but the plays actually called, and the execution of them will likely be more important this week.
Devoting resources to stopping Derrick Henry
We all know the offense runs through the former Alabama running back. What kind of resources are the Chiefs going to devote to stopping him? Do they add an eighth man to the box, or do they hope to stop him with seven to have more coverage on the back end? The flow of the game can certainly help these questions gets answered, but regardless, it will fall on the defensive line to play physical, disciplined football. If they can get away with seven and manage the game, that’s ideal for the Chiefs.
Play-action passing game
The Titans have been working a lot of play-action pass into their offense and are generating explosive plays out of it. Like they were the last time the Titans played the Chiefs, they were able to find Kalif Raymond on a big play down the field last week against Baltimore. The safety was out of position because he was looking to get involved in the run fit. Eye discipline in the secondary will be critical for eliminating explosive plays off of play-action pass.
Blitzing Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill has been playing in an offensive environment that is friendly to him, and he’s taking full advantage. Teams have devoted more resources to stopping Henry, which has made teams more vulnerable in coverage. The Chiefs need to make Tannehill process through plays, see pressure and complete passes with some added pressure. Teams haven’t been able to disguise against the Titans offense as much. The Chiefs need to speed him up with pressure.
Arrowhead Pride Laboratory
We went into further detail on these storylines — and listed players we’re looking forward to watching — on this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory.