The Chiefs’ rush defense has improved over the past three games after a stretch of five straight outings in which they allowing a back to run for at least 99 yards.
But the Titans figure to get Derrick Henry very involved this week. Henry is the NFL’s ninth leading rusher with 644 yards and has six touchdowns. Here’s more on that matchup and others to watch when the Chiefs visit the Titans.
The Titans are a hard-nosed defense-first team, which should come as no surprise with Mike Vrabel as their head coach. Vrabel is a former All-Pro linebacker who spent his final two seasons in Kansas City.
Asked this week about his favorite barbecue place in town, he went with Jack Stack, because it was closest to his home. Vrabel went 9-7 in his first season and has the Titans sitting at 4-5 after last week’s 30-20 loss at Carolina.
Henry and the Chiefs know each other well. In the playoff game at Arrowhead after the 2017 season, Henry dominated, rushing for 156 yards as the Titans overcame a 21-3 halftime deficit to win 22-21.
But he’s reached 100 rushing yards in a game just once this season and got just two first-half carries last week. The Titans fell behind the Panthers early and couldn’t lean on their run game in that one, but Tennessee figures to attempt to pound the rock with Henry Sunday.
The Chiefs held the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook, who entered last week’s game as the NFL’s rushing leader, to a relatively paltry 71 yards. And the Chiefs’ defense has played progressively better of late. Stat of note:
The Titans have surrendered an NFL-high 38 sacks this season. The Chiefs have recorded 15 in their last three games. Ryan Tannehill has taken over for Marcus Mariota at QB and is 2-1 as a starter.
Meanwhile, it’s been a rough year for the Titans’ placekickers. Three of them are a combined 7-for-15 on field goals ... and two of them are former Chiefs Ryan Succop and Cairo Santos.
The Titans recently learned that cornerback Malcolm Butler is lost for the season with a wrist injury. But this is still a formidable defense.
The Titans rank seventh in the league in points allowed (18.3) and are tied for eighth in sacks (25). They also rate sixth on third-down conversions (34 percent).
The Chiefs counter with one of the league’s top offenses, and now they get an upgrade at quarterback. Named the starter Friday, he will see his first action since dislocating a kneecap Oct. 17 at Denver. Vrabel said the Titans have been practicing as if Mahomes will be starting, and now he is.