The Kansas City Chiefs took on the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. While the week leading up to the game was jam-packed with injury reports, some one-sided trash talk and talks of legacy, no one had more to prove than defensive tackle Chris Jones.
Jones entered the game without a playoff sack through 13 career postseason games. He notably missed some plays late against Joe Burrow in the title game last season that would contribute to the Chiefs' demise.
In the biggest game of his career, Jones delivered an all-time performance that may never be replicated again.
In 45 pass rush downs, Chris Jones was double-teamed 30 times and triple-teamed twice. He won, or affected the play on 10 of the reps he was doubled on.— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 31, 2023
Of his 13 downs being blocked by one player he won 11 of them.
2 sacks, 10 pressures, five QB hits, and one holding call.
It was total domination from start to finish — and as Jones made play after play, the rest of the defense followed suit.
Setting up teammates
A week ago, I detailed how the Bengals shut down Jones back in the team's Week 13 matchup. They used strategic double teams and slide protection — a pass-blocking scheme in that typically, the center, a guard and a tackle will all slide in one direction, blocking gaps, while the opposite guard and tackle block a specific man based on the alignment of the defense. This was all to thwart Jones.
The Bengals slid toward Jones this time around, looking to double-team him, but the rest of the Chiefs' defensive line would step up — specifically Frank Clark.
Jones draws the double team from the slide protection early. Clark and Danna are both one on one on the backside. Danna has a nice power rush to move the LG back in the pocket and initiate contact. Clark's motor runs hot and he finishes the play to force a punt. pic.twitter.com/RNYXyNm2K9— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 31, 2023
With the majority of the offensive line focused on where Jones was lined up, it left one-on-one matchups across the board for the rest of the pass rushers. Here, Mike Danna uses a good bull rush to push the left guard into the pocket and initiate contact with Burrow.
Clark continues hot in pursuit, finishing Burrow before he can escape the pocket.
Clark would finish the game with 1.5 sacks, and he matched the effort displayed by Jones for the entire game.
3rd down and the Bengals slide protection toward Chris Jones. Gay rushes off the edge, while Clark comes on a delay back around the inside. Jones blows up the double team, Gay turns the corner and jumps on Burrow. Clark gets home to finish the play. pic.twitter.com/3nhZ5XDAFA— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 30, 2023
Steve Spagnuolo called a great game, and his decision to call some pressure looks toward the same side as Jones would pay off. The center and right guard slide to take on Jones, but he crushes their attempt, penetrating the backfield before being slowed down.
Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. comes flying off the edge and is free, while Clark loops inside of the dismantled double-team block and once again, comes in late to help finish the play.
By lining up Gay wide and looping Clark back inside, they ensured that when Jones was doubled, they would get a free rusher to go after the quarterback.
Jones draws the double team and doesn't get much, but Nnadi creates some push by bulling back the RG. Burrow starts to move around, and Karlaftis spins back inside to get the sack. Good job to bull back the RT, and disengaging quickly for the sack. pic.twitter.com/9akUz7PLq9— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 31, 2023
Jones doesn't get much against the double team, but defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi gets just enough push to make Burrow uncomfortable. Defensive end George Karlaftis sees Burrow start to move in the pocket and executes a great spin move to smack Burrow for a sack.
The Chiefs were even able to give Burrow a unique look based on the dominating game that Jones was having.
On the Williams interception, Danna dropped into coverage off the LOS. It turns into a triple team up front on Jones, but Dunlap is able to put some pressure on Burrow. Great coverage downfield, but the pressure with a 3 man rush allows for extra bodies in the secondary. pic.twitter.com/r43wx7XyUr— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 31, 2023
When Danna drops, both guards and the center go after Jones. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap is one on one on the edge and puts some pressure on Burrow. With eight men in coverage, it made double coverage downfield easier, and Burrow lobs up a pass tipped by Bryan Cook and intercepted by Joshua Williams.
A triple team is the ultimate form of respect for defensive linemen, and it also allowed the Chiefs to give Burrow just a small taste of what Patrick Mahomes has had to deal with for the last year.
Fighting through double teams
As the game progressed, it was apparent that the Bengals planned to continue doubling down on Jones at all costs. After nearly a half of getting used to how they planned to double-team him, Jones finally was able to split one in a critical situation.
One of the most critical downs of the game was the 2nd down with eight seconds to play in the first half. Jones out wide in a 4i quickly wins the B gap. The C is late to help and Jones bruises his way into the backfield forcing Burrow to get the ball out. The Bengals took a FG. pic.twitter.com/sEQFC4nWD1— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 31, 2023
On the snap, Jones explodes out of his stance, blowing past the left guard with a swim move, bullying his way through the center to force a quick throw from Burrow. The Bengals opted to take a field goal rather than try to put the ball in the endzone one more time.
Late in the game, Jones would again beat a double team, and he did so using pure force and aggression.
Look at Jones splitting the double team. Knocks the guard back and crashes his shoulder into the center. Excellent pad level to force a holding call. Burrow had to evade the pocket quickly to avoid taking another hit. pic.twitter.com/Cb1hmDbdio— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 31, 2023
Jones doesn't use any move to get free of the blockers. Instead, he uses a bull rush, blowing the left guard into the backfield, and disregarding the center's attempted block. Both linemen are forced to hold him to keep their quarterback safe.
The flag comes out, and it backs up the offense while taking vital time off the clock.
Jones was playing mad all game, and he revved up some of his best rush attempts to beat the double teams that have plagued him in the last three matchups. The scheme can only go so far on the offensive and defensive lines. At some point, physicality takes over.
The most significant development of Jones’ game this year has been his ability to finish games. He has become the team's closer, and in the regular season, he recorded 7.0 sacks in the fourth quarter of games, which was tied for first in the NFL.
Jones stepped up late in the game, but he also made his impact known on critical third downs.
Jones first sack of the game. Lined up in a 4i KC, with Bolton walking up on the LOS. A great get-off and quick hands help him beat the RG. No slide protection due to the threat of a blitz. Jones engulfs Burrow forcing a punt. pic.twitter.com/sm34NtVCaw— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 31, 2023
On third-and-18, the Bengals were forced into an obvious passing down, and Jones took advantage. Lining up on the inside shoulder of the tackle, Jones explodes off the ball and immediately swats the right guard's hands away.
The right guard has his hips turned to the sideline once Jones swats down his hands, giving Jones a better angle to get to Burrow.
Jones was active all game, both at and before the snap. Throughout the game, he lined up on the left and right sides of the line, and in a 3-technique (outside shoulder of the guard), 4i (inside shoulder of the tackle), 5-technique )outside shoulder of the tackle) and even as far outside as a 7-technique (between a tackle and tight end or slot receiver).
This movement around the line allowed him to play with different combinations of teammates. When he lined up on the same side of the field as Clark, it allowed them to run a twist game.
Another big 3rd downplay and again Jone is in the backfield. T/E stunt with Clark takes him outside. The chip on Clark gives the protection time to pick him up, but Jones stays hot in pursuit. The LT should stay with Joens as he goes into the C gap. A half step away from a strip. pic.twitter.com/Julqy6Sfmk— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 31, 2023
The line slides toward Jones as they did most of the night, but he engages the guard and allows himself to be taken out wide. Clark loops inside and beats the center to the opposite A-gap. Jones powers his way through the left guard, and when the left tackle makes a bad decision, it leaves Jones a free shot on Burrow.
Jones is half a step away from a strip sack, but it does force a fourth down.
The game stakes grew higher late in the game, especially when the Bengals had the ball with the score tied and 20. After converting one long third down, the Bengals would line up for a third-and-8 situation with just 45 seconds to play in regulation.
In heroic fashion, Jones answered the bell one more time.
The play of the game. Chris Jones lined up wide on the edge. He engages with the RT, then uses his inside hand to rip through and quickly crashed down on Burrow to force a punt. Dunlap leaping forces Burrow to hold the ball while Jones finishes the play. pic.twitter.com/54pHCKOWEf— Playoff James (@CJScoobs) January 31, 2023
Jones comes from wide on this play, nearly head up on the tight end before the ball is snapped. The tight end has a wider split to keep Jones out there and give him time with a threat of a chip block, but the chip never comes.
Jones blasts off the line of scrimmage, building momentum as he engages the tackle, who jump-sets (flat and aggressive) Jones.
Taking advantage of the aggressive jump-set, Jones engages, and then he quickly forklifts the hands, blows past the right tackle and crushes Burrow in the process.
The Chiefs took a timeout and, after the punt, would take the lead and win the game.
The bottom line
This was a legacy game for Jones and one that will forever change how he is viewed when people talk about the Chiefs teams of this decade. He now has his signature game that not only defined his greatness but also put his team in the Super Bowl.
In the past, it has been Jones and the defense who were bailed out by the greatness of Mahomes, Andy Reid and Travis Kelce. This time around, Jones and the defense stepped up together and put the team in a position to win the game.
While Jones and the defense exercised demons against the Bengals, they will face their toughest test against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.
The Eagles' offense boasts the fourth-best rushing attack in the NFL, MVP candidate quarterback Jalen Hurts and the best offensive line in the league.
It will be a tall task, but if Jones comes with the level of motivation and pure passion that he played with in the AFC Championship game, he will have a chance to cap a special season with a Super Bowl ring on his finger.