KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said it best: “Last year we weren’t ready, and they beat our a****.”
With that mindset, Kansas City heads into Sunday night facing a 5-2 Tennessee team that has beaten them two of the three times the Mahomes-led Chiefs have faced the Titans. Both losses were on the road in Nashville; the lone win was the AFC Championship game in 2020.
“They’re talented. People don’t talk about their D-line, but it’s one of the best defensive lines in football,” Mahomes said Wednesday.
“They’re well-coached. (Titans) coach (Mike) Vrabel — I worked a little bit with him at the Pro Bowl and understand the coach that he is. So they’re a well-coached football team, and they have a mentality that they’re going to come in, and they’re going to win.”
The Titans are on a 5-game win streak and are coming off a win over Houston in which running back Derrick Henry ran for 219 yards. He’s 3rd in the league in rushing yards.
The Chiefs’ defense is well aware of the challenge Henry presents.
“You just got to keep a fire in your belly in these types of games,” defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi said. “It goes back to fundamentals, hips, hands, feet, gap integrity, stop the running back before he gets started. Tackle him below the knees, slow him down.”
“He can make the game,” linebacker Willie Gay said. “If you stop him, you’ll win the game for sure, but he’s a game-wrecker. If we build a wall up front, we like our chances. If he gets to the 2nd level, it’s 5-6 plus yards. If you can stop him in the backfield, which starts up front, then linebackers fill in the gaps, it helps out a lot.”
Gay said stopping Henry will be a game-changer.
“If you take Derrick Henry away, that’s the Titans. You know, that’s like taking away Patrick Mahomes from our offense, so that’s something we focus on all week,” he said.
But Henry isn’t the only offensive weapon the Chiefs are focused on.
“They’re a very physical team, good running back, QBs that can deliver the ball and some receivers that can make some good catches,” safety Juan Thornhill said. “So the main thing we got to do is make the plays that come to us and win those 50/50 balls and tackle when it’s our opportunity to make a tackle.”
The Titans started rookie Malik Willis in their last game against Houston. Normal starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was listed as limited as he deals with an ankle injury.
The Titans offense, despite Henry’s efforts, is ranked 32nd out of 32 teams in total offensive yards per game with 285.6. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ offense is 1st in scoring offense and 2nd in the league in yards per game with 403 yards per game.