Thu, 20 Feb 2020

Titans aim to keep run going against Chiefs in AFC title game

Field Level Media
16 Jan 2020, 17:55 GMT+10

Make whatever you want out of Andy Reid's postseason record.

The Kansas City coach may have another reason to stray from typical tactics Sunday when the Chiefs play host to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game.

"Our players, some of them, have won more games against (the Titans) than I have. I'm going to bank on them," Reid said.

Reid was presumably kidding, though he is 1-8 all-time in games he has directed against Tennessee.

Then, too, there's his 3-5 postseason record for the Chiefs. Counting appearances with Philadelphia, he is 1-5 in conference championship games. Also, Kansas City is 0-2 all-time in the AFC Championship Game. It made two Super Bowl appearances representing the AFL and won it all 50 years ago.

Ahh, but one distinct weapon Reid and the remainder of the organization banks on could help overcome any negative history. His name is Patrick Mahomes.

In the divisional round, the reigning MVP engineered the first playoff comeback in which a team rallied from a 20-plus point deficit to win by 20 as Kansas City ousted the Houston Texans 51-31. Mahomes became the first NFL player to pass for 300-plus yards, rush for 50-plus yards and throw for five touchdowns in a playoff game.

And yet the Chiefs quarterback takes every opportunity to credit others, including Reid, who is bidding to become the seventh coach to take two franchises to Super Bowls.

"He's going to dial up the plays where you can take your shots," Mahomes said.

Although tight end Travis Kelce rates as his most frequent target and speedy wideout Tyreek Hill as his most dangerous, Mahomes can spread the ball to numerous teammates. And when those options aren't available, he becomes a threat to cover open space with his feet.

"I feel like nobody in the NFL can guard any of us," Hill said. "Man-to-man is just easy for us to beat, and if you just allow us to run through zones, it's even easier."

Though seeded sixth, the Titans seem up for the challenge.

They can secure the AFC title by defeating a fourth straight division champion on the road in as many weeks after winning at Houston to end the regular season, then at New England and at Baltimore in the postseason.

Tennessee carries a four-game, head-to-head winning streak against Kansas City and is the last team to down the Chiefs. The Titans prevailed 35-32 on Nov. 10 behind 188 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Derrick Henry, whose ability to control the clock and wear down tacklers could be as good a weapon as any for restricting Mahomes' big-play capabilities.

None of those other division champs from the AFC held Henry to fewer than 182 yards. His 377 yards in back-to-back playoff wins is a postseason record as Tennessee eliminated the Patriots' top-rated defense and the Ravens' top-rated offense.

"I'd like to think that we're playing with a lot of confidence," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said, "when you can run the football against the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots, and take care of the football."

Although Henry understandably receives the bulk of attention, Ryan Tannehill is 9-3 since the Titans inserted him as their starting quarterback.

Over that period, Tennessee has generated 31 touchdowns and just one field goal on 35 trips to the red zone, a good thing since it went 8-for-18 attempting field goals in the regular season.

"There's confidence when we're down there that we'll find a way to make a play," said Tannehill, who finished the regular season as the NFL's top-rated passer. "You combine that with Derrick running hard each and every play, and there's a lot of combinations that we can use."

Adam Humphries, who caught the game-winning pass in the regular-season win over the Chiefs, practiced Wednesday for the first time since injuring his ankle Dec. 1. Linebacker Jayon Brown (shoulder) practiced after missing the win at Baltimore.

Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, a potential run-stopper against Henry, continues to nurse a strained calf. He missed the victory over Houston.

--Field Level Media

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