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Turk Wharton — and how he made the best play of his young career

Late in the second half, Wharton sealed the game with a clutch interception

NFL: OCT 17 Chiefs at Washington Football Team Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When a football player hears his name called on "SportsCenter," it either means he did something really good or really bad.

This past Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs' second-year defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton made the popular ESPN show for the good kind of play. He intercepted Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter, extinguishing any remnants of hope that Washington could mount a last-second comeback.

For his efforts, Wharton was awarded an appearance on ESPN's top 10 list; he was the No. 3 play of the day.

"You always dreamed about it," said Wharton on Wednesday. "It's something I thought would probably never be seen, but it's always good to get one, and I made SportsCenter's top 10."

Kansas City Chiefs v Washington Football Team Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The interception

Before the pick, the Chiefs had erupted in the second half of the football game and shot out to a commanding 31-13 lead over Washington. The defense had played well and managed to hold Washington scoreless since halftime. They just needed one more stop.

The Chiefs were ahead by three scores. Even if Heinicke managed to string together a few good plays, there was little time to mount a comeback.

Chiefs fans watched as the clock ticked down, worried that at any moment, there would be a miscommunication in the secondary that would lead to blown coverage and a Washington wide receiver waltzing down the sidelines on their way to a 75-yard touchdown.

Heading into this game, the Chiefs were 2-3 and in last place in their division, and they possessed the worst-ranked defense in the NFL. They needed a win.

Here is the play from another angle:

Heinicke snapped the ball and immediately noticed that the Chiefs were playing Cover 2, with linebacker Ben Neimann spying the quarterback. Heinicke's first read was to his receiver in the left slot, but the Chiefs' secondary did a good job of taking away the underneath route. Heinicke quickly switched his gaze to running back J.D. McKissic, who was leaking out of the backfield.

When Heinicke released the ball, McKissic looked open, but in a split second, Wharton managed to get his arm up and knock the ball down, pinning it against the right tackle's shoulder, until he could get two hands on it and come down with the interception.

"I saw it coming," he said, "We're always talking about the running back as his check-down, so when I saw it coming, I was really trying to like swipe it down, but he didn't put much heat on the ball. So, when I hit it, I realized I really had it. So, I just put it on his head and then once I got two hands on it, I wasn't letting it go."

It was the play that Chiefs fans had been waiting for — to see Kansas City's defense slam the door on an opponent and end the game.


Looking ahead

The Chiefs have their work cut out for them this Sunday, when they travel south to face the Tennessee Titans, who are led by one of the NFL's top running backs in Derrick Henry. When he was asked about what it would take to stop Henry, Wharton said that it would take a team effort to "kill the engine" of the Titans offense.

"All 11 guys to the ball, of course," said Wharton when asked about attacking Henry. "Just making sure upfront that he doesn't get to the second level, because when you watch him as he builds up the speed, that's when he really gets dangerous at that second level, so coming in and trying to stop him at the line of scrimmage and hold him there.

"He's a good player and good players are going to make good plays, but that's what we're trying to do, just set the line of scrimmage up front and make sure he doesn't get to that second level... It's a good challenge for us."