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Frank Clark closes out Ravens, leads jumpstart on defense

The Chiefs pass rusher took advantage of his first opportunity to close a game out in 2020

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

In the three Kansas City Chiefs postseason games from the 2019 season, Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark earned five sacks total. Remarkably, he sacked the opposing quarterback of every postseason opponent on a late-game drive — ending their final chance to come back.

The “closer”

  • In the Divisional round, Clark sacked Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on fourth down with 1:40 remaining — the last defensive play of the game.
  • In the AFC championship, Clark sacked Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill on fourth down with 1:28 remaining — the last defensive play of the game.
  • In the Super Bowl, Clark sacked San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on fourth down with 1:33 remaining. It would have been the last defensive play of the game if not for Chiefs running back Damien Williams scoring his unforgettable touchdown right after.

So far in 2020, Clark hasn’t had the chance to close out a game. The defense allowed Houston to move the ball in the final period of Week 1, and Clark wasn’t able to play in the second half of the Week 2 game due to an illness.

In the closing minutes of the 34-20 Week 3 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Clark likely smelled the blood in the water. After helping cause a sack on second down, he pinned his ears back and sacked Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson on third down — with an assist from first-year Chiefs defensive end Taco Charlton.

The next play was a fourth-down incompletion to end the last legitimate Baltimore possession.

“I know a big play needed to be made,” Frank Clark told reporters following the game. “I knew I needed to step up and make a play, I call myself the closer so why not go out and do it.”

The close-out sack was Clark’s second sack of the season. He and defensive tackle Chris Jones (3.5 sacks) are the only Chiefs with multiple.

Clark and the rest of the Chiefs defensive front felt a heightened responsibility going into the Ravens game. They faced a team that can be hard to physically stop, which is especially concerning after a soft performance from the Chiefs defense against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The coaches challenged the defensive front to take it to another level, and those players accepted it.

“Any time I’ve played the Ravens since I’ve been in the league, every game has been won up front,” Clark recalled. “We knew that coming into the game, we had the task given to us at the beginning of the week by (defensive coordinator) Steve Spagnuolo, head coach Andy Reid, and everybody else. We needed to step it up, last week against the Chargers wasn’t a good performance overall, but I know being the leader of this defense, I took offense to it cause our defensive line didn’t play as well as it could have. We did get the win which is what matters, but performance-wise, we could’ve played a lot better. I feel like we did this week, what we hold them to 13 or 10? Anytime you hold the league MVP to that much, you can say you’re going to win that game.”

Clark is right. The defense only allowed 13 points; seven of the Ravens’ 20 points came from a kick return touchdown in the second quarter.

What’s even more impressive about the game-sealing sack is who the quarterback being pulled to the ground was. Lamar Jackson is one of the hardest players in the NFL to tackle, yet the Chiefs defense swarmed him for four sacks and five quarterback hits on Monday night. Clark recognized the extra focus it takes to defend a player with his skillset.

“You’ve got to be patient,” Clark explained. “It’s a patient game. For a player that’s so fast and so explosive, [Jackson] can make so many plays. He can make so many plays throwing the ball, running the ball. I can’t give away too many other secrets because we’ve got to play this man for the next few years down the road. I’m sure we’ll probably see them again this year. That’s a great team over there. I felt once we got on them, we [didn’t] let up.”

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

While there may have been an additional focus on stopping Jackson in the practices leading up to game day, the level of anticipation and energy felt for this contest was no more than any other Chiefs opponent, said Clark.

“The same [as] against any other team,” Clark claimed when asked if there was any extra “sauce” going into the game against the Ravens. “They get the same attention. They get the same emotions towards them. We never get too high, never get too low. That’s kind of the agenda we came into this week with. We kind of let things get out of hand last week. Our main goal this week was just to get back on track to what we were doing. I felt like this was a start.”

The word start was an intriguing word choice. Yes, the NFL is going into Week 4, but the lack of preseason has thrown seasonal routines out of whack. Now with three weeks of games to get back into the swing of things, it’s possible that the defense we expected to see right out of the gates is finally getting its feet under it.

With the Chiefs offense looking as explosive as its ever have, the defense just needs to be opportunistic. That means closing out a game when you have a lead.

Clark has the experience doing it, and he has yet to blow a save.