Oct 6, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (27) and cornerback Brandon Flowers (24) celebrate a win over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. The Chiefs beat the Titans 26-17. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Every week, we here at Arrowhead Addict break down the Kansas City Chiefs’ matchup of the week and predict five things the team will have to do in order to win. Once the game is over, we take a look at the Five Keys and see how well the team did. Welcome to Five Keys to Victory Follow Up.
Well, well, well, the Chiefs are 5-0. Who would have thought that possible after last season? It was another hard-fought, gritty win on the road for the Red and Gold, but they were able to pull it out. Let’s see how they did this week. My original post is in normal type and my follow up comments are in bold.
Key #1: It Starts and Ends with Jamaal Charles
Charles has to get the ball 25-30 times a game for the Chiefs to greatly increase their chance of winning. Ideally 15-20 of those should be rushing plays where he can get to the edge in space and then hit the afterburners and the remainder should be passes out of the backfield to take advantage of his versatility. Getting Charles involved early and often is the best way to beat the Titans who tout a defense, although not as tough as the Chiefs, are pretty damn good.
What do you know, the Chiefs listened to me. Charles picked up 108 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown, and added five catches for another 37 yards. This is the recipe for success with this offense. Period, dot, end of story.
Key #1: Achieved
Key #2: Get in the Face of Fitzpatrick
With the Titans starting quarterback Jake Locker watching the game from the sideline, the team turns to back up quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Chiefs fans are all too familiar with “Fitzy” as he’s burned them on more than one occasion. The last time the “not-so epically bearded one” took the field against the Chiefs was in game two of last season. Fitzpatrick and the Bills picked the Chiefs apart and his stat line was 178 yards 2 TDs with the final score 35-17, Buffalo Bills. However, the time before that Fitzpatrick ruined the Chiefs home opener during the dreaded 2011 season. While the game included a cheapshot low hit on Eric Berry by receiver Stevie Johnson that sent Berry to the sidelines for the year, it also included Fitzpatrick and the Bills shredding the Chiefs for 208 yards and 4 TDs through the air. The final score was 41-7 and it was the start of a miserable season. I know this is longer than normal, but there’s a lot of history between this quarterback and the Chiefs. In his last two appearances against them, he’s thrown six TDs and zero INTs. That can’t happen against the Titans. If the Chiefs defense can get in the QB’s face, he will get flustered and throw interceptions. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has a better track record against Fitzy during his time with the New York Jets. Let’s hope he put an end to this.
Ole’ Fitzy tried to work some of that magic on the Chiefs but the defense held strong. Getting to him three times on the day for sacks and several hurries (especially in the first half) was key to him not being able to get in a rhythm with his receivers. The two touchdowns the Titans scored on were improvised plays that were based more on desperation and luck than any kind of superior play. All in all, I’ll take it.
Key #2: Achieved
Key #3: Third Down Conversions
The Chiefs offense has to convert third downs. Currently the Chiefs are 14th in the league in third down conversion at 38 percent. While that’s not bad, that means that a lot of offense is being left on the field because they’re not able to convert. Though I hold my breath every time Alex Smith takes off, I expect him to do it on more than occasion today to pick up the first down. Chiefs have to make this happen and be closer to the 50 percent mark than the 30.
If there ever was a “but what” this is it. The Chiefs offense was one for 12 on third downs. While they were able to squeak out this win, having an absolutely dismal showing on the third down won’t cut it with other teams. The offense has got to get past that hump and convert on these downs.
Key #3: NOT Achieved
Key #4: Expose the Weaknesses
After the first few weeks of the NFL regular season, teams are starting to get banged up. Thankfully, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey has done a fantastic job of bringing in players who, though they aren’t starters, are able to step into that starting role for a short time while their counterparts get healthy. The Titans may not be as lucky. The right side of their offensive line is severely lacking. Between injuries and rookies, it is ripe for Houston, Hali, Poe, Berry and whatever other defender wants to come through to push the pocket back. They Chiefs need to take advantage of those weaknesses.
While it wasn’t an overpowering exposure, I think the Chiefs defense found the soft spots as much as they could. This was much more evident in the running game, where they held the guy who thinks he’s better than Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson (or CJ2K if you’re into overhyped nicknames) to 17 yards of rushing. As a team, the Titans were held to 55 yards by running backs (105 if you count the broken plays Fitzy converted with his legs) and 37 of those 55 were on a single Jackie Battle (glad to see he’s doing well, I always liked him as a Chief) run that was broken lose by a great block. The biggest victory here, though was the goal line stand which has been a strength for the Titans all season (scoring on 100 percent of their previous goal-to-go situations. The Chiefs defense held them out of the end zone from inside the five yard line on four consecutive attempts.
Key #5: Achieved
Key #5: Turn Turnovers into Points
The Chiefs defense (among other things) leads the league in the turnover battle at +9. However, on several of those turnovers, they haven’t converted those opportunities to points and thus has led to close games (and heightened blood pressures) when it was unnecessary. If the defense does the work to take the ball away from Tennessee, the offense needs to put it in the end zone. It’s that simple.
The Chiefs continued their domination of the turnover battle category this week. Though they gave away a rare Alex Smith interception and a rarer Jamaal Charles fumble, they were able to grab a fumble of their own and a pair of interceptions. However, the key here was points off of turnovers, and this week the Chiefs delivered. From the aforementioned turnovers the Chiefs took away from the Titans, they scored 13 points. In case you’re not paying attention, the final score was 26 – 17 Chiefs. That means by winning the turnover battle and scoring points from those turnovers, it won the game for the Chiefs. That fact makes this the absolute, single-most important point for the whole game.
Key #5: Achieved
There you have it, Addicts. The Chiefs hit four of the five marks we set for them and they come away with the win and a still unblemished record. What did I miss? Sound off below. As always, thanks for reading, and GO CHIEFS!!!