How does the old saying go? “An unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” But wait, what would be the opposite of that? “An unstoppable force meets a group of Spanish Matadors?” The latter would be a more accurate representation of a key matchup this Sunday in the Music City.
The Kansas City Chiefs will bring their 27th-ranked rush defense to Nashville this weekend in an attempt to slow down an emerging MVP candidate in Derrick Henry. The Tennessee Titans’ All-Pro running back has been on a tear again this season, averaging 130.5 yards per game on the ground to pair with his league-leading 10 rushing touchdowns.
While the Chiefs made some necessary changes on defense last week and showed improvement in their Week 6 win over the Washington Football Team, most fans are waiting for the unit to prove their mettle against a more established NFL offense. They won’t need to wait long.
The matchup is an unfavorable one. However, Kansas City’s most significant obstacle on Sunday isn’t Henry. With all due respect to the potential Hall of Famer, who is built like an inside linebacker at 6’3” and 247 lbs, the Chiefs’ biggest concern is not turning the ball over.
Kansas City’s inability to hold on to the football has been a concerning theme all season. They rank dead-last in turnovers per drive, mainly contributing to their less than stellar 3-3 record. While the defense has rightfully shouldered much of the blame, the most troubling trend has been offensive turnovers.
Over the past two seasons, Kansas City has ranked top-five in fewest giveaways in the NFL, according to Pro Football Reference. Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the star-studded offense have thrived on large chunk plays, accompanied by very few turnovers. Possessing an efficient offense capable of posting points in video-game fashion has minimized the need for elite defense. The Chiefs reached back-to-back Super Bowls with middling defensive metrics.
However, the offense hasn’t consistently performed at a level capable of covering up a struggling defense this year. Turnovers, particularly during crucial moments of games — notably end-of-half drives — have crippled their ability to outscore opponents.
Perhaps most maddening, offensive guru Andy Reid has Mahomes and their elite weapons performing at a level the NFL has never seen before. Their current 3.07 points scored per drive rate is the highest mark the league has ever seen. Even with the worst turnover rate in the league, the offense is improbably still out-producing any offense in NFL history.
Protecting the football will be of utmost importance on Sunday. All season, opposing teams have done all they can to limit the number of possessions for Kansas City’s offense. Aggressive fourth-down play-calling, paired with a struggling Chiefs defense, has kept Mahomes and the offense off the field more than normal this year.
For this reason, limiting turnovers should be the Chiefs’ No. 1 objective on Sunday. To expect their pedestrian defense to all of a sudden blossom into a unit capable of shutting down the freight train of Henry would be an unfair ask. This season, Henry and the Titans’ offense has feasted on far superior defenses, recently gashing a Buffalo Bills defense that held the Chiefs to a modest 20 points just two weeks ago.
It’s also important to remember that the Chiefs still possess the worst red-zone defense in the NFL. This season, Henry’s 10 rushing touchdowns suggest that Kansas City might continue to struggle to force the Titans to kick field goals deep in their own territory. Instead, Chiefs fans should hope for continued dominance from their offense, without the slew of turnovers, to outscore the Titans.
Expect Henry to continue being the immovable object he has become. It’s time the Chiefs’ offense returns to their proper form as an unstoppable force.