It’s time for the Kansas City Chiefs to finally prove passing is king
By Jacob Harris
Not only can the Chiefs beat the Titans on Sunday but they can also put away the tired old cliches about how football is “supposed” to be played in the postseason.
With 10 minutes left in the second quarter of Kansas City’s divisional playoff matchup with the Houston Texans, the Chiefs trailed 24-0. At the 0:45 mark of that same 2nd quarter, Patrick Mahomes hit Travis Kelce on an absurd little dump-off pass between six (SIX!!!) Houston defenders to take a 28-24 lead.
The 24-0 deficit was all of the Chiefs’ past playoff misery barreling through space and time to collide at Arrowhead, their remnants spewing violently like Tarantino viscera for the world to witness. The rest of the evening was catharsis at breakneck speed. Out of all that hopelessness and anguish, a new Chiefs team was born. They came screaming out of that bottomless pit, dragging an entire city on their backs with them. In that singular moment in time—0:45, 2nd quarter—I exteriorized from my doughy trash body and attained enlightenment.
And you know how the Chiefs did it? They threw the ball. Then they threw it some more. Then for good measure they threw it even more. And the rushes the mattered most? Those came on Mahomes scrambles, a.k.a. plays drawn up for the ball to be thrown.
Now, I know what you’re saying; “They were trailing 24-0, of course they were passing like crazy!”
And you’re right. That is the reason handoffs were relegated to mostly goal line/red zone situations until the comeback was completed. But that doesn’t change the reality that the Chiefs’ offense was at its absolute unmatched peak in the Mahomes-Reid era from the 10 minute mark of the 2nd quarter on against the Texans. They were backed into a corner and forced to be what they always should have been: the team that breaks football and redefines the way it’s played.
There’s no better game to prove that passing is king once and for all than one against the Tennessee Titans with the AFC Championship on the line.
The Titans are the team rejuvenating the tired old cliche from the establish-the-run, impose-your-will Football Guys. The sticks in the mud have watched their old strategies’ effectiveness and relevance evaporate before their eyes. Everyone is passing more. Corners are valued as much as, if not more than, linemen and pass rushers. Running backs mean a whole lot less now and quarterbacks don’t just hang out in the pocket. But then, like a massive, boring, immovable beige bolder, the Titans show up and start to ruin everything.
One of the larger issues with football analytics people, especially on social media, is their inability to accept outliers. There’s a much more in-depth dive that’d be worth taking on that, but needless to say, the Titans are an outlier. Everything we know about football in 2020 and how points are generated says it’s done through the air. But the Titans and their human-bulldozer-with-a-jetpack Derrick Henry have (literally) ran through both the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens on their path to meet the Chiefs in the AFC Championship.
You can’t get much more opposite than the Chiefs and Titans. The Chiefs feel like they’re from the distant future, and the Titans feel like they’re the final vestige of football’s archaic past, seeking to snuff out the future before it can happen.
Which is why it’s now the Chiefs’ duty to end the Titans’ run, and to do it by going full Air-Reid. If they turn back into the Chiefs from playoffs past and choke away this silver platter of a championship run, that’ll be all the football establishment needs to chalk up the Chiefs as an unsustainable gimmick offense that can’t win “January Football”.
If the Chiefs’ passing attack is even half of what it was last Sunday against Houston, the Titans simply don’t have a path to victory. The Titans have ostensibly one very specific way they can win; get out to a lead and then let Henry run/destroy all that’s in front of him.
The easiest way to take Henry out of the equation is to not let the Titans have a lead. Fortunately, the Chiefs are more than capable of going up 21-0 in the blink of an eye. They just have to be willing to do it at the cost of sacrificing the mythical run-pass balance.
If the Chiefs come out scorching the earth through the air it forces the Titans to play shootout ball. At that point it’ll be Patrick Mahomes vs. Ryan Tannehill. Ballgame.
I know this is all very armchair expert and football isn’t that simple. Except this time it is that simple. This game is a no-brainer. I have no doubt Andy Reid and his staff’s gameplan will more-or-less boil down running Da Bomb from NFL Blitz on loop for 60 minutes.
The last time the Chiefs and Titans met, Mahomes was fresh off a dislocated knee and the Titans needed multiple Chiefs’ special teams blunders to win. It doesn’t take much to realize that game exposes nothing about this next one.
This is the Chiefs second shot to win the AFC and, in their own building, hoist the trophy that was named after their founder. It’s there for them to take. They’ve recaptured the magic of last year and have the entire NFL’s attention again. They’re the favorites, and they’ve had all the pieces fall exactly where they need them to for the easiest path to the Super Bowl to form.