Rewind: Tennessee Take Five

Posted Dec 27, 2010

Reviewing five keys from pre-game

The dust from Sunday has settled and the Chiefs are AFC West Champions! Let’s take a look at how KC got there in our Take Five Rewind.

As always, the original pre-game article is posted below with the aftermath in bold.

It’s the day after Christmas and Arrowhead is once again hosting meaningful December games, but the holiday weekend won’t be complete without a Chiefs victory.

Christmas came early in Kansas City this year with Chiefs fans receiving the gift of their squad leading the AFC West since early September.  A win on Sunday would equal the Chiefs combined win total from 2007-09 (10). It’s been a remarkable turnaround, but the work is far from done.

Kansas City has the “P-Word” on its mind. Let’s “Take Five” to see what it might take to get there.

1)      Protect the Edge

Chris Johnson is one of few players who can score from anywhere on the field and any point in the ballgame. It takes a special breed to continually break big plays against defenses that key every move on every down. Johnson is one of those players; he’s special.

Teams have stacked the box on Johnson all season, much like the Chiefs have seen throughout much of the year as well. Kansas City’s defense likely has specific scheme in store to limit Johnson on Sunday. With this guy, “limiting” is easier said than done.

Keeping Johnson from circling the edge is a great starting point in limiting one of the league’s most explosive play-makers.

Johnson was continually swarmed by a sea of red jerseys in gang tackle fashion on Sunday. His longest run was 17 yards and Johnson never established a presence on the edge, finishing with just 58 rushing yards. At one point, 325-pound DE Shaun Smith chased the Johnson down behind the line of scrimmage while fellow defenders strung the speedster towards the sideline. Limiting Johnson throughout the day was a team-wide effort.

The Chiefs offense helped things further by converting early possessions into scores. Kansas City’s 24-0 first half lead forced the Titans to abandon their most effective offensive asset. Kerry Collins finished the day with 37 pass attempts, compared to just 16 Tennessee rushes.

2)      The Biggies

Tennessee can gauge a defense with big plays and their firepower only begins with Johnson. Don’t sleep on Kerry Collins and this Titans receiving core. Four different Titans have knocked out plays of 50 yards this season. In last week’s win over Houston, Collins hooked up on pass plays of 21, 27, 39 and 59 yards, respectively, while Johnson added a 42-yard run.

Fully healthy again, Kenny Britt is a difference maker for the Titans. Tennessee’s offense has enjoyed significantly more success in the 10 games that Britt has been in the lineup versus those games when they’ve been without. Without Britt, the Titans are 0-4 with a passing game that averages just over 160 yards per contest and a rushing attack that’s been held around 90 yards on average.

And then there’s Randy Moss. The former All-Pro might be playing a reserve role, and he’s only caught one pass in December, but the threat to go-off at any moment is still there. A look at the big-play tally might tell the tale when this one is all said and done.

Johnson was contained and Moss was a non-factor, but Britt got loose for a 53-yard scoring strike that broke Kansas City’s first half shutout. In his post-game press conference, Todd Haley mentioned that there were some aspects of Sunday’s game that he’d like to see cleaned up; the big pass plays probably are included on that list.

Collins also hooked up with TE Jared Cook on three passes of 22 yards, including a 22-yard TD and a long pass of 43 yards, as both Titans scores were direct results of a big pass plays.

On one hand, Cook turned in a career day with 5 catches for 96 yards (19.2 avg.) and a TD. He owned just 26 catches in 29 career games prior to Sunday. On the other hand, Tennessee’s most explosive offensive threats didn’t get a chance to beat the Chiefs.

3)      Painfully Cold

With a high temperature not expected to top the freezing mark, Arrowhead is going to carry some wintery bite on Sunday. The Chiefs can make it brutally cold for the Titans by delivering big hits and explosive plays from the start.

Though the Titans’ playoff hopes are still on life support, they’re realistically playing only for pride this weekend. The NFL’s toughest strength of schedule has gotten the best of Jeff Fisher’s squad this season and KC’s December temperature can do the same for a team out of contention. A few powerful punches from the get-go might just help the Titans dream of warmer off-season destinations.

At 6-0, the Chiefs are one of just three NFL teams with a perfect home record, joining only Atlanta and New England. Those teams are going to the playoffs. The Chiefs will join them if they can keep their home slate clean.

Kansas City’s quick start played out to perfection on Sunday. So much so that we highlighted it as this week’s Turning Point.

Game time temperature was 19 degrees with a wind chill of 10. After the Chiefs held firm for a fourth down stop on Tennessee’s first possession and converted that stop into a 14-0 advantage, the Titans offered relatively little pushback. The Chiefs scored on their first four possessions to build a 24-0 lead. By halftime, the 31-7 advantage left the Titans looking for an escape from the cold (and Arrowhead for that matter).

4)      Chiefs Football

The Titans’ game is much like the Raiders’ game: physical and ugly. When the two match effectively, it can mix beautifully for those franchises.

Tennessee hits hard and lets the flags fly. They’re among the league leaders in penalties against and, likewise, their opponents have seen more penalty yardage marched off than any team not playing Oakland.

There have been more success stories than failures for the 2010 Chiefs. One of those failures, however, was falling into the Raiders style of football while playing in the Black Hole. That can’t happen this weekend. This Sunday is an opportunity for the Chiefs to show that they’ve learned from some of their self-inflicted mistakes committed earlier in the season.

Not much went astray in the Chiefs 34-14 win, but staying away from penalty was a failure. This game got ugly in a hurry with eight personal fouls called before the start of the fourth quarter. There were various points throughout the game that fans feared control of the football game was teetering. Many thought the high amount of personal fouls was one of the reasons that Haley removed QB Matt Cassel from the game prior to the fourth quarter (Haley has since said that the Chiefs removed Cassel because of a “strategic area that needed cleaning up”).

Titans right tackle David Stewart was flagged for three personal fouls by himself and the Chiefs added a handful of unsportsmanlike flags as well. At the end of the day, the Chiefs were flagged for 84 total yards. The flag-happy contest mirrored the Titans style of play, not the Chiefs.

In this game, the penalty yardage didn’t matter. The Chiefs might not be so lucky down the road.

5)      Who’s Next?

A pair of reserves stepped up in opportune times last Sunday in St. Louis. Wallace Gilberry delivered a career-day with 3.0 sacks, which included a critical third-down takedown of Sam Bradford while the Chiefs trailed 6-0, and Jackie Battle converted a fourth-and-one that seemingly changed the game.

Who’s next?

The Chiefs need contribution from each of their 45 actives down the stretch.

Verran Tucker, Ricky Price and Demorrio Williams all stood out on special teams as the Chiefs turned in perhaps their best coverage performance of 2010. Titans rookie return man Marc Mariani took several shots and averaged just 0.3 yards per punt return and 19.6 yards per kickoff return.

Defensively, Eric Berry is no stranger to the field, but delivered his first NFL score on a 54-yard INT return. He was also the first Chiefs rookie to serve as a team captain when he was appointed the team’s rotating captain spot prior to kickoff.

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