AFC Championship Review – Chiefs “Oh Henry” the Titans

Posted: January 24, 2020 in All Things Power Spread

How did the Chiefs and Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo slow down the Titans powerful Offense?

Spagnuolo’s “Oh Henry” Defense (See Video)
  1. Aggressive Variety – Personnel
    1. Heavy Sets
      • DL- Pennel + XWilliams + Saunders
      • LB – Ragland
    2. Fresh Bodies
      1. Frequent Substitution
      2. Top DLineman Chris Jones back
      3. Use all Depth
  2. Aggressive Variety – Scheme
    1. Crowd the Box
    2. Primary Focus = Henry
    3. Run Blitz with smaller Personnel
      • Take chances versus pass/play-action
        • Mix Blitz Pressure
        • Mix Coverage
      • M2M Concept
        • DBs know the Plan
        • Focus on Aggression!
          • Let go- Mistakes
          • Let go – Big O Plays
  3. Aggressive Attitude
    1. Respect Opponent
    2. Be willing to Grind
    3. Prepare for a Fight

Respect + Scheme = Energy!

The Titans Offense overpowered both of their first two opponents. In the Wildcard game, New England had a bad Scheme. In the Divisional game, Baltimore lacked respect. KC had the Scheme and the Respect. They were prepared for Battle!

Tennessee came out strong, but KC’s Defense punched back! Both teams never stopped fighting. Eventually KC’s Offense pulled away and put too much pressure on the Titan’s O to keep up.

Tennessee Success Early

The theme of Tennessee’s success throughout the playoffs continued at the start.

  • Play Action Passing using Henry as a Decoy
  • Spread the Field to set up the Power
    1. Create Space for the Run Game
    2. Use Timing in Play Calls to keep the Defense Hesitant
    3. Mix Personnel to take Focus off Henry

OC Arthur Smith made all the right moves early in the game and Tony Romo was on it during the broadcast!

Pees – More Aggressive Variety, but not enough

DC Dean Pees applied more Aggressive Variety early, but didn’t do it enough throughout the game. As I pointed out in my Preview, his tendency is to mix coverage – not pressure.

Unlike Lamar Jackson the week before, Mahomes was able to read the tricky Coverage Mix of Pees. When he wasn’t or when everyone was covered – he ran. And ran well!

Pees did come back to more of a pressure mix at times in the 2nd Half, which kept the game relatively close.

His most effective tactic was bringing surprise blitzes by the DBs to throw off Mahomes rhythm. He did this early on and again in the 2nd Half, but it was a case of too little, too late.

Defense thru Offense

With Pees backing off a bit on his aggression, the KC Offense started to roll. Combined with the good stuff Spagnuolo’s Defense was doing, the game started to snowball out of control for the Titans.

Tennessee’s very effective Pro PS Offense isn’t necessarily built for high scoring games. Besides the Scheme/Attitude employed on Defense, the other effective way to stop Henry and the Titans run game is to score points.

The KC Defense played just well enough to keep it close. Once the Chiefs Offense started rolling, the Titans got away from their Theme of Play Action – Spread to Power. Maybe too soon..?

From there it was a game of “catch up” for the Titans. They don’t have the Talent nor the Scheme to play that way versus a top notch Offense like Kansas City.

Vrabel – Pro PS, PS Pro or Full PS?

Ironically, the Titans may have had a better chance for a comeback late with backup QB Mariota.

Tannehill vs Mariota- Pro PS vs PS Pro

Mariota was replaced by Tannehill during the season as the Titans wisely altered their Scheme to suit the OLine and Skill Positions. To succeed with such a drastic mid-season changes was quite amazing.

It didn’t catch on until late in the year. Thus the big playoff run everyone saw. A perfect scheme for a big strong OLine and RB, but not one suited for comebacks vs a high scoring team.

Full PS?

It will be interesting to see the road HC Mike Vrabel takes in the following years. Does he keep Mariota? Does Arthur Smith stay as OC? Will the OLine stay Big or move towards small and mobile?

All of this will effect future decisions. But Vrabel – being a defensive coach – probably loves the Power Pro PS that was developed and will do all he can to keep it for next year. Though I wouldn’t be surprised, if the personnel changes, he doesn’t move into an Urban Meyer style power PS offense in the future.

Chiefs riding the Energy into the Super Bowl!

Since Mahomes and Hill recovered from injuries, the Offense has been building up momentum and is rolling into Super Bowl 54. The Defense also is playing their best as they continue to improve under first year DC Spagnuolo.

San Francisco is also rolling and won’t be easy. As long as KC respects the young upstarts from the bay, they have the Talent, Schemes and Experience to get Andy Reid his first Super Bowl after a long illustrious career.


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