Editor’s note: We welcome Editor-in-Chief Jimmy Morris of Music City Miracles — our sister site covering the Tennessee Titans — for Five Questions with the Enemy as we head into the AFC championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Titans this Sunday.
1) What led to Derrick Henry’s second-half-of-the-season dominance? Is there a way to stop him?
I’ll answer the second question first.
No, there is not a way to stop him right now. He is in a zone like we have never seen before in the history of running backs. That’s right — the history of running backs.
Now, as far as what led to it, there are a couple of things. One thing is his confidence. He has emerged as a leader on and off the field for this team. It has been fun to watch. Secondly, the offensive line has really gelled since Taylor Lewan came back from his four-game suspension — and Nate Davis settled in as the starter at right guard. They are pushing people around up front.
2) What have you seen in Ryan Tannehill since he took over for Marcus Mariota?
Ryan Tannehill has been exactly what this team needed at quarterback. He is a guy that can put stress on the defense in multiple ways. He has been really efficient passing the ball since he took over. In fact, his numbers are better than Patrick Mahomes since Mahomes came back from the injury. He is accurate and decisive with the ball and hits the shot plays when they run them. He can also take off and run when needed. He used to be a wide receiver, you know!
3) If you were an offensive coordinator, how would you prepare for the Titans defense?
At this point, you have to start with making sure you can protect the middle. The Titans really have something with Jeffery Simmons and Jurrell Casey up front. Those guys are able to get a push from the middle to make a quarterback move off his spot. The other way they create pressure is to send a defensive back — usually Logan Ryan — on a blitz. You have to be ready for that as well.
The other thing that I think you will see in this game is the Titans making the Chiefs drive the football. Of course that is a huge challenge against this offense, but that is going to be the goal. I would preach to my guys to be patient. Take the plays that are there and be willing to just keep the chains moving.
4) Who is an under-the-radar player on offense and defense that Chiefs fans should know about?
On offense it is tight end Jonnu Smith. He has really emerged this season with Delanie Walker being out — including a circus catch for the Titans’ first touchdown against the Ravens. He is a guy that has really good hands and the ability to run over people after he catches the ball. The Titans have also lined him up at running back a few times this year and handed him the ball. He has four carries for 78 yards on the season — not too shabby (of course. he did have a 57 yard run in there).
On defense it is Simmons — like I mentioned above. He has been really good since he came off the injury. The ability to get pressure from the middle without sending extra guys is so big in today’s league — especially with an offense that is as explosive at the Chiefs. The Titans are going to need as many people in coverage as possible. If Simmons can create a rush that will prove huge for the Titans chances of getting a stop.
5) How does this game play out?
I have picked the Titans to lose in each of the first two games. No reason to do anything different here. I expect this to be a really fun game with a lot of points being scored by both teams. The Titans were really lucky to get out of the first meeting with the Chiefs with a win. Chiefs 34, Titans 27