When the NFL season began, the question was whether anybody in the AFC could topple the Kansas City Chiefs. Now the question is very different: are we entirely sure the Chiefs are even a good team? The Tennessee Titans humiliated the Chiefs 27-3 on Sunday, in a loss that could propel Kansas City into an identity crisis.
At the moment they look nothing like the team that went to two straight Super Bowls, winning one of them. Their record this season stands at 3-4, and they face the very real possibility of missing the playoffs.
The common theme in the two games: A lack of pressure on the quarterback. Kansas City pressured Tannehill and Josh Allen on only a combined 16 of 60 dropbacks, which is an easy way to lose football games. And it’s even more concerning considering the resources the Chiefs’ front office has poured into rebuilding the defensive line over the past four years. In his first draft as general manager in 2018, Veach used his first two picks on defensive linemen Breeland Speaks and Derrick Nnadi. Then, after sending first- and second-round picks to Seattle for Frank Clark the following spring, he used a Day 2 pick on defensive tackle Khalen Saunders. The cost of that Clark trade was even bigger than the package of picks, as Kansas City immediately gave him a new deal worth $104 million.
That acquisition finished off a complete reboot of the pass rush, which included the release of veteran star Justin Houston. That move made sense on paper: The Chiefs were swapping out the aging Houston for a younger player just entering his prime. But things haven’t worked out. Not only has Clark struggled when he’s been on the field this season, but also Houston has been the better pass rusher since the move.
Winner: Derrick Henry, QB
Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs, who successfully held Derrick Henry under 100 yards rushing. Henry had reeled off five-straight 100-yard games, averaging 145 yards and two touchdowns per game; the Chiefs held him to 86. Unfortunately, literally everything else went wrong for the Chiefs; they lost 27-3, by far the worst game of Patrick Mahomes’s career. The Titans went up 27-0 at halftime and didn’t even bother scoring after that. They’d defeated the back-to-back AFC champs in a half, and could just kind of, like, chill out.
Sunday was Mahomes’s first truly bad game of the season, as he entered the day leading the NFL in most passing stats. Mahomes finished with zero passing touchdowns for the first time since 2019. Henry, meanwhile, finished with one:
It was the second passing touchdown of Henry’s career—he also threw one in the Titans’ 2020 playoff win over the Ravens. As soon as Henry took the snap, all 11 Chiefs defenders converged in an attempt to stop the 6-foot-3, 247-pound speedster. The guy who caught the touchdown, MyCole Pruitt, was probably the most tightly covered of the three Titans available for passes on the play.
It’s tough to say what’s wrong with Mahomes right now. (For more coverage of this, check literally any sports website.) But it’s easy to see what’s right about Henry and the Titans. The threat of a Henry run requires an entire defense’s attention. Most of the time, that’s still not good enough to stop him. Sunday, the Titans used that to their advantage.
The Titans are Super Bowl contenders
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. How could it be, after a week in which they beat the Bills and the Chiefs? Kansas City is the two-time defending AFC champion, and Buffalo opened the season as a lot of people’s favorite to unseat the Chiefs.
One of the many things this means is that, should the Titans end up tied with either Buffalo or Kansas City for the top seed (and lone bye) in the AFC playoffs, they would get that top seed by virtue of a tiebreaker. Bigger picture, though, it means they can play with and beat anyone in the conference.om there. To be clear: The Titans needed only two quarters to beat the Chiefs.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Ahmad Gardner CB
CINCINNATI • JR • 6’2” / 188 LBS
Gardner is a long, press corner who would give the Chiefs some much-needed depth on a defense that has been hard to watch at times this season.
15 - Kansas City Chiefs
3-4 · .553
Biggest needs: OT, CB, S
Week 8 opponent: vs. Giants
CG: Protecting Patrick Mahomes is paramount to the Chiefs’ hopes of continuing to make the deep playoff runs they’ve enjoyed in recent years. At offensive tackle, both Orlando Brown and Mike Remmers have deals that expire this offseason. Along with a leaky defense, it’s an obvious priority.
Around the NFL
Multiple teams are interested in Watson, and although his interest in joining the Dolphins has become a worst-kept secret of sorts in league circles, the source disputed the notion that it’s simply Miami or bust.
The Dolphins remain a strong contender to land Watson in a trade, but he will consider potential options as they come because his primary goal is to get out of Houston, according to sources. The Texans also want to maximize Watson’s trade value with prospective teams.
One emerging option is the Carolina Panthers, who are evaluating their pursuit of a franchise quarterback after Sunday’s ugly 25-3 loss to the New York Giants, sources have confirmed to ESPN.
The growing expectation is Carolina could reignite Watson talks soon. Carolina was a serious suitor early in the 2021 offseason before sexual assault allegations against Watson surfaced, but Houston general manager Nick Caserio wasn’t engaging with teams at that time, sources say.
Adams tested positive for COVID-19, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Adams hasn’t been forced to follow protocols for unvaccinated players, an indication that he is vaccinated.
If Adams is indeed vaccinated and is asymptomatic, he would need two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart to play Thursday against the unbeaten Cardinals. Arizona activated pass-rusher Chandler Jones, who is second on the team with five sacks, and defensive lineman Zach Allen from the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday.
Saints lack go-to pass catcher, so Alvin Kamara will have to do. Kamara saw a Derrick Henry-level workload Monday night, rushing 20 times for 51 yards and catching 10 of his 11 targets for 128 yards and the Saints’ only touchdown of the night. New Orleans capitalized on Kamara’s dynamic ability by deploying him on choice routes that allowed Kamara to find open areas no matter the defense, and frankly, it’s surprising the Saints didn’t go to him even more. Save for a nice sideline grab by Marquez Callaway late in the fourth, Kamara was the only viable option through the air. As Jameis Winston said afterward, his best course of action was “just taking what the defense gave me.” It’s clear the Saints don’t have a ton of offensive punch at this point — especially when the precipitation decides to become a bully — but they have Kamara. It was enough to win Monday night.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Better as the game wore on
The first quarter wasn’t great for the rookie linebacker.
He was washed out on a few run plays, and it felt like he was adjusting to the Titans instead of putting his mark on the game. As the second defensive drive was underway, he did make a few sure tackles with Khalen Saunders. He didn’t allow any extra yardage on a quick end-around — one of the most significant flaws of the second level of the defense over the last few years.
The second quarter was better. Bolton — known for his terrific burst when getting downhill and attacker ballcarriers — had two run stuffs, including a tackle for loss when he could shoot through the gap.
Unfortunately, his weakness in coverage playing in space also showed up. He was too deep on a second-and-12 that allowed the tight end to settle underneath, making third down very manageable. Later in the same drive, his drop wasn’t deep enough, and Tannehill was able to find the tight end between Bolton and deep safety Juan Thornhill.
Late in the second quarter, Bolton showcased his best rep to date. On a goal-line situation, with the NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry looking to get into the endzone, Bolton showed that downhill playstyle and stuffed Henry, causing a loss on the play.
Bolton was able to play in the backfield and hit Henry before he could get going and bring him down to the ground.