Uneven Chiefs have to contend with Derrick Henry, Titans
One consistent factor behind a surprisingly average start from Kansas City has been the impressive abilities of the quarterbacks who opposed the Chiefs.
A combination of turnovers and shoddy defense from Kansas City (3-3) contributed to the Chiefs being outgunned by the likes of Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Josh Allen.
Whatever hopes the Tennessee Titans (4-2) have of further flattening the two-time reigning AFC champions Sunday at Nashville, Tenn., will probably depend on a different position player.
Derrick Henry, however, is a formidable threat in his own right. He has five consecutive 100-yard rushing performances and has scored three touchdowns in three games this season as the Titans face a short week after an electrifying 34-31 home win Monday over Buffalo.
“He’s a big guy, so you’ve got to take the legs out,” said the Chiefs’ Tershawn Wharton. “That’s how you kill the engine, and all 11 guys have to get to the ball.”
Easier said than done, especially against a massive back like Henry who not only breaks tackles but can outrace defenders in the open field. Henry, who averages 130.5 yards on 27 carries per game, faces a Kansas City defense that ranks 27th against the rush. The Chiefs surrender more yards per play (6.7) than any NFL team.
“I’ve just got to do my job,” said Henry, who has 783 rushing yards. “(Blockers) make my job easy. Those guys just having the will to want to be better each and every play, each and every week, just that mentality.”
Starting faster could be essential against the explosive Chiefs. The Titans average 3.3 points in the first quarter and didn’t get kick-started against Buffalo until Henry busted a 76-yard touchdown early in the second period. The Titans are prone to negative plays, ranking 31st in sacks allowed (20), resulting in 150 yards in losses.
“We’ll have to start the game better,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “That’s what we’re focused on with Kansas City, get a better pocket for the quarterback.”
The Chiefs continued their mistake-prone start to the season with three first-half turnovers last Sunday before blanking Washington in the second half of a 31-13 victory.
“I wouldn’t call it a reset,” Patrick Mahomes said of the comeback. “You still have to build upon it. We’re still a long ways from where we need to go.”
Kansas City leads the NFL in giveaways (14) and Mahomes has eight interceptions working against his 18 touchdown strikes, which leads the NFL. His picks are tied for second.
“You’ve got to go do it,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of mistakes hounding every unit. “You can’t talk about it anymore; you’ve got to go do.”
Mahomes ranks third in passing yards (1,887). Travis Kelce leads all tight ends with 38 receptions.
Two Chiefs defenders who missed the Washington win, Chris Jones (wrist) and Charvarius Ward (quadriceps), returned to practice during the start of workouts for the Tennessee game.
Jody Fortson tore his Achilles at Washington. Anthony Hitchens (triceps) played just 11 snaps at Washington and did not practice Wednesday along with offensive starters Tyreek Hill (quad) and Joe Thuney (hand).
Vrabel allowed the Titans to conduct light work Wednesday leading into the Chiefs game before resuming full practices Thursday.
Tennessee is dealing with many injuries, including the loss of rookie first-round pick Caleb Farley (knee) and concussion protocol for tackle Taylor Lewan, who was carted off the field in the Buffalo win. Cam Batson is out, while fellow receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) and cornerback Chris Jackson (foot) did not finish Monday’s game.
–Field Level Media