The Titans defense came out against the Kansas City Chiefs and to sat the least, they were nothing short of masterful. Holding Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and an explosive Chiefs offense to only three points is impressive enough. However, once you dig even deeper into the schematics of what they ran, it becomes even more impressive. Mike Vrabel and Shane Bowen dialed up exotic coverages and did a great job of allowing their players to get into great positions to win. However, not only that, their defensive front showed up in a big way.
The Titans defensive game plan was all about getting pressure with four and not blitzing Mahomes just about at all. On the back end, they come out here in a two-high shell and run Cover 2. However, they are funneling the most dangerous weapons like Hill to the safety with the underneath defender chipping the slot receiver and funneling it up to the safety. The entire point of the play is to give the Titans’ cornerbacks help against speed and allow no easy throw over the middle of the field. Luckily, with the way the Titans defensive front is playing, they do not have to hold these guys all that long, either. There were some opportunities that could have been open, but the synergy between the coverage help and the pass rush up front is perfect. Joseph Jones’ pressure around the edge flushes Mahomes out of the pocket with good explosiveness and solid bend around the edge. The Titans just stay disciplined both up front and on the back end, they play to their leverage, know where their help is, and are in perfect synergy.
So, yet again the Titans try to get pressure with only four pass rushers. Rushing with only four and then playing Cover 2 over the top was the main gameplan. It kept the explosive plays to a minimum and Mahomes would have to find the hole in the seven coverage defenders. On this one, Tyreek Hill has an opportunity up the seam, even if it would have been a ridiculously hard throw. Still, if anyone can make the throw, Mahomes would be that guy. Still, the field safety does a nice job of squeezing this window if it was there. More importantly, the boundary safety gains width to the trips side smartly to guard against any crazy patterns. However, across the board, there is sticky coverage. Then, the pass rush comes into focus again. Bud Dupree beats the tackle through pure athleticism alone and sacks Mahomes. It is just a great synergy between pass rush and coverage.
With Mahomes expecting Cover 2 on this play, the Titans mix it up instead. While they show the two-high shell pre-snap, and Mahomes wants HIll on the quick curl in the middle of the field, the Titans instead run Cover 1 robber with Kevin Byard acting as the rat. Bowen had not yet run a single-high play in this game, so this is a great tendency breaker to switch up the looks for a quarterback who was on his heels already. By doubling Hill and taking away the first read, Mahomes is forced to try and make some magic happen out of structure, but nothing was ever going for him on this play. There was no one truly open, the pocket collapsed around him so he could not work out of structure. It was all created though by a strong call by Bowen and a huge tendency breaker when they needed it.
The Titans go to single-high here as well. However, it is not to run some type of aggressive blitz across the board, but rather, it is to drop four over the middle of the field and clog those throwing lanes. It is strategies like this that have at least made Mahomes start to look somewhat human this year. Still, if he holds this a hitch later, and he did have an opportunity to do just that, Mahomes could have had Gordon breaking open on the in-route. Still, they continue to double Hill and take away Mahomes’ most reliable and almost always force him to make something happen out of structure. Mahomes has almost a superiority complex when it comes to his natural talent, and he tries to make this dangerous throw to Josh Gordon with Rasaahn Evans draped all over him. It was an easy pick from there. With the lack of blitzes, the consistent pressure with foru, and overall solid coverage, the Titans executed this game plan to perfection.
The Titans laid out a clear blueprint to slow down Patrick Mahomes. They were going to take away Tyreek Hill at all costs, rush only four and not blitz Mahomes, mix up their coverages from two-high shells, Mahomes was forced to either make plays outside of structure and risk turnovers, or eat the plays. However, Tennessee’s front played so well and got consistent pressure that often the off-script stuff was not available either as the Titans collapsed the pocket.