The Kansas City Chiefs have made some serious waves during the last three weeks. They handed losses to three Super Bowl contenders in the Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons, and Oakland Raiders. This week the Chiefs will be taking on the surging Tennessee Titans. The Titans performances over the last few weeks have made them legitimate playoff contenders. At the beginning of the season this may have seemed like an easy win to many Chiefs fans, but with the way Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray have been playing, Kansas City should be in for a tough game. Below are the Kansas City Chiefs Week 15 keys to victory.
Kansas City Chiefs Week 15 Keys to Victory
Derrick Johnson’s Replacement
Last week Derrick Johnson suffered another ruptured achilles, ending the rest of his season. It’s not easy losing a veteran leader like that, especially when there aren’t many options as far as replacements go. Josh Mauga and Justin March-Lillard are both out, leaving Ramik Wilson and D.J. Alexander as the only inside linebackers. They will certainly be tested this week as they go up against a much-improved Titans offensive line and one of the league’s toughest rushing attacks.
Between DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, and Marcus Mariota the Titans are averaging 144 yards rushing per game. Just last week Tennessee able to beat the Broncos by pounding the ball in between the tackles. Expect Mike Mularkey to have a similar game plan against Kansas City since the Chiefs have struggled against the run this year. Wilson and Alexander are going to be tested early and often. Both players are going to need to step up their game by filling gaps quickly and wrapping up the ball carrier.
The Titans running game won’t be the only way Wilson and Alexander will be attacked. Tennessee has two good receiving options at tight end in Delanie Walker and former Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano. Mariota likes to look for both of them over the middle on drag routes and hitches. More often than not, Ramik Wilson or D.J. Alexander will be expected to cover them. If they can take away Mariota’s safety nets and force him to throw at Marcus Peters and Eric Berry, the Chiefs should be able in good shape to get a win.
Chiefs Running Backs Need to Have Big Day Through the Air
While watching the 22 man tape this week of the Titans, there was one glaring problem with their defense. They can’t cover running backs running routes. That is not to say the Titans linebacking corps is poor, they are just built more to pass rush and stop the run. In fact, the Titans have totaled 19 sacks just between their two inside linebackers. What this indicates however, is they often blitz. This ends up leaving running backs wide open in the flat.
The Chiefs need to take advantage of this by using Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and Tyreek Hill on outlet routes to negate Tennessee’s pass rush and punish the Titans for their aggressiveness. Screen passes aren’t the most exciting plays, but it seems to be the best way to beat the improved Titans defense.
Keep a Spy on Marcus Mariota
Marcus Mariota is fast, which might exactly be groundbreaking analysis. But his ability to maneuver has helped make the Titans offensive line look better on paper than it might actually be. Mariota has an uncanny ability to extend plays or turn what should be a sack into an eight yard gain. One way to limit this is to have a defender spy Mariota and follow him on his rollouts which could help cut off any of Mariota’s running lane. This likely will force Mariota to throw the ball more.
While the former Oregon Duck has undoubtedly improved since his rookie season, he still doesn’t have the strongest arm and has a tendency to throw off balance. This plays into the Chiefs advantage since Marcus Peters loves to jump routes so often. If a quarterback throws anything other than a dart Peters’ way he runs the risk of throwing an interception. Kansas City will need to contain Mariota so he doesn’t get positive yardage after a play breaks down. A spy will not only allow the Chiefs to limit Mariota’s scrambling ability but also increase the chances he throws an interception.
Kansas City has proven to the league that they should be considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders. They have outscored the Falcons offense, overcome Denver’s historic defense, and shut down MVP candidate Derek Carr. They have everything they need to beat the Titans. Kansas City will just need to have role players step up like so many others have already this season. Expect a cold, grind it out type of game Sunday.