How Chiefs Can Stop Derrick Henry, Titans Vaunted Rushing Attack
The Titans offensive philosophy relies on old school, smash-mouth football. They try to control the clock and win the time of possession battle by handing the ball off to Derrick Henry as many times as the game script allows. With starting tight end Delanie Walker out with an ankle injury, and one of their top receivers Corey Davis, doubtful with a hip injury, Tennessee will become more reliant than ever on their run game.
Freshly installed starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill breathed new life into the passing attack for the Titans, passing for 278 yards per game as a starter. Most of Tannehill’s passes are outside the hash marks but inside the numbers, meaning a lot of slants, curls and hitches.
After taking over in the third quarter of Week 6, Tannehill has attempted only eight passes of 20 yards or more with six of those throws going deep down the sidelines. His ability to deliver the ball on time to his receivers lets rookie A.J. Brown and former first-round draft pick Corey Davis start showing why Tennessee so highly coveted them.
Stopping The Offense
If the Chiefs hope to stop the Titans offense, they first must focus on Henry. Henry is a momentum runner, requiring clear lanes to get up to speed where he starts to resemble a runaway train, destroying anything in his path. Kansas City must plug all of the gaps, creating uncertainty for Henry forcing him to run into a pile of people or bounce the ball outside. Henry's large frame and power make wrapping up and gang tackling necessary to bring him down.
If the Chiefs can either flip the game script by bottling up the run, they can then set their sights on attacking Tannehill and the passing game. With a vast majority of his passes traveling fewer than 20 yards between the hashes and numbers, Kansas City defenders can play stickier coverage underneath, daring Tannehill to beat them over the top.
The offensive line, while a solid run-blocking unit, has holes the defense can exploit in pass protection. Center Ben Jones struggles anchoring against a strong bull rush and can't always stop defensive linemen from swatting his arms away. Left tackle Taylor Lewan, one of the better left tackles in the game, lacks consistency keeping defenders from getting around the corner on deeper pass drops, leading to strip sack opportunities.
The Chiefs should also look to attack the right tackle Jack Conklin by setting him up outside and then attacking his inside shoulder. The right side of the offensive line is particularly bad at picking up twists from the defensive line. Right guard Nate Davis will chase defensive tackles outside, leaving him off balance and out of position to move back inside with the looping defensive end.