Can Titans shut down Mahomes like Jackson, Brady?

Friday, January 17, 2020, Vol. 44, No. 3
By Terry McCormick

AFC championship: Titans vs. Chiefs

Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO

Sunday, Jan. 19, 2:05 p.m.

TV: CBS (WTVF) RADIO: 104.5 The Zone

The Titans have a chance to win in the postseason as long as they can ride the running of Derrick Henry.

We had already seen that with his 182 yards in the upset of the Patriots in the wild-card round. And he put an exclamation point on it Saturday with 195 yards in a 28-12 shellacking of the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens.

So if the Titans want to continue their run as a team of destiny and reach the Super Bowl, a big dose of Henry against the Chiefs is a must.

Here is a look at four keys for the Titans in the AFC Championship Game.

First down

Henry is on an amazing roll, and no one seems too anxious to tackle him once he gets rolling. He is the only player in NFL history with two games of 175 yards or more in the same postseason, as well as the only player in NFL history to record three consecutive games with at least 180 rushing yards.

The Titans’ offensive line is opening holes and has had very few penalties in the postseason, allowing the Titans to use its passing game as an occasional complement to the run game.

Second down

Scheme and dream. The Titans have had a brilliant defensive plan in each of their two playoff wins, thanks to Dean Pees’ scheme and the players’ execution. After shutting down Tom Brady and rattling Lamar Jackson, the Titans have another challenge this week in slowing down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ high-powered offense.

The Titans have had good luck against the Chiefs recently, defeating them in the playoffs and scoring a win earlier this year at Nissan Stadium. But Kansas City has plenty of offensive weapons that will have to be accounted for – not the least of which is tight end Travis Kelce.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid is 1-7 against the Titans.

Third down

Don’t let the moment be too big. The Titans and Coach Mike Vrabel have done a good job of not being overly absorbed by the situation they face. They didn’t “look at the pinstripes” in New England and they were not intimidated by the ghosts of Ravens past against Baltimore. Now with a Super Bowl berth on the line, the Titans have one more big challenge that they will have to look in the eye and not blink.

Fourth down

Keep getting contributions. While it is true that everything on the offense runs through Henry, the Titans have gotten some timely plays in the passing game when they have been most needed.

Ryan Tannehill threw for less than 100 yards for the second consecutive week, and certainly is capable of more if called upon. But he had two passing touchdowns that gave the Titans a 14-0 lead in Baltimore and later ran for a third on an option play. A.J. Brown has been quiet in the postseason, but Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser have picked up the slack.