KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Running the ball and playoff football go hand in hand. While Kansas City likely will use Kareem Hunt a bunch, Tennessee likely will do the same with Derrick Henry.
So whoever defends the run better when the Chiefs and Titans meet in the AFC wild-card game at 3:35 p.m. Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium has a pretty good chance of moving on.
“We have to stop the run and have some fun,” Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones said Tuesday.
The Titans (9-7) are no doubt a downhill running team. Henry will get the start at running back as DeMarco Murray will miss the game with a torn MCL in his right knee. Despite starting just two games this season, Henry leads the team with 744 yards rushing and has scored five touchdowns. Murray, meanwhile, started 15 games and rushed for 659 yards and six scores.
Jones said the Titans have a “very aggressive” offensive line, which is led by Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. But Jones believes the Chiefs (10-6) have a way to counter the Titans’ tenacity up front.
“Give it to them,” Jones said. “Hit them in the mouth.”
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota also is a dual-threat as he has rushed for 312 yards and five scores. Mariota, however, has more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (11) this season, and that could bode well for the Chiefs.
“If you stop the run, takeaways come,” Jones said. “They come after you stop the run. Force them to pass. We got good guys in the defensive backfield, Marcus Peters, Ron Parker, Daniel Sorensen. So we just have to stop the run and force them to pass and create turnovers.”
The Titans defeated the Jaguars last week 15-10 to get into the playoffs but prior to that the team had lost three straight.
“Like us, they had some games that were just OK and then games they were pretty good in,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s kind of the ebb and flow of an NFL season. You look at all of it and you come up with your game plan.
“Most of all you focus on getting your team ready to go against their schemes, then study their players and you know you’re going to get their best shot.”
The Titans can certainly expect the same from the Chiefs, who haven’t won a home playoff game in 24 years. But they hope that will come to an end very soon in what would make for a really exciting time for Chiefs fans.
“It’s always exciting in Kansas City, baby,” Jones said. “It’s Chiefs Kingdom.”
TITANS AT CHIEFS
When/Where: 3:35 p.m. Saturday, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
Records: Titans 9-7, Kansas City 10-6
TV/Radio: ESPN, KDVV-FM (100.3)
Line: Kansas City by 8½