News & Analysis

NFL Championship Round PFF ReFocused: Kansas City Chiefs 35, Tennessee Titans 24

It was the Patrick Mahomes show in Kansas City, as the Chiefs‘ offense was nearly unstoppable on their way to the Lamar Hunt Trophy. The Tennessee Titans jumped out to a 10-0 lead, a walk in the park for the Chiefs’ offense after they erased last week’s 24-0 deficit. The Titans did a fine job early on, mixing it up with creative play calling and getting the benefit of a Breshaud Breeland defensive pass interference on third-and-forever that ultimately led to a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to go up 17-7.

Passing Chart Takeaway

Mahomes was the more efficient passer at all levels. Just one of his 21 throws less than 10 yards downfield were off target, and just one of his nine throws that traveled 10-plus yards downfield were uncatchable.

After that, Mahomes took over, throwing catchable passes on 27-of-30 targeted throws if you eliminate his five throwaways. The only thing that slowed the Chiefs was two third-down drops, but it was a classic game where the passing game led the way with contributions from multiple playmakers. WR Sammy Watkins was the star this week, catching seven passes for 114 yards and a score, while WR Tyreek Hill found the end zone twice in a game in which he was used all over the field in the jet sweep and short game.

player team targets tgt_share air_yds_tgt rec rec_yds rec_air_yds
Corey Davis TEN 8 28% 11.9 5 65 41
A.J. Brown TEN 6 21% 10.5 3 51 26
Adam Humphries TEN 5 17% 7 4 25 21
Jonnu Smith TEN 3 10% 7.3 3 38 22
Anthony Firkser TEN 2 7% -13.5 1 22 27
Derrick Henry TEN 2 7% -4 2 -8 -8
Dennis Kelly TEN 1 3% 6 1 1 6
Dion Lewis TEN 1 3% -4 1 6 -4
MyCole Pruitt TEN 1 3% -2 1 9 -2
Sammy Watkins KC 9 31% 11.8 7 114 87
Tyreek Hill KC 6 21% 11.2 5 67 47
Damien Williams KC 5 17% 3.6 5 44 18
Travis Kelce KC 4 14% 9.2 3 30 23
Demarcus Robinson KC 2 7% 6.5 2 31 13
Anthony Sherman KC 1 3% 10 0 0 0
Darwin Thompson KC 1 3% 0 0 0 0
Mecole Hardman KC 1 3% -4 1 8 -4
Target Chart Takeaway

Watkins gained 87 air yards, more than any Titans receiver gained in total.

For Mahomes, it caps an incredible two-game playoff stretch that may be the best of his young career. As if last year’s MVP performance was jaw-dropping enough by Mahomes, he’s added a scrambling element to his game this season that was on full display on an epic 27-yard scamper for a score at the end of the first half. Combine that with a 60-yard fourth-quarter touchdown to Watkins, and Mahomes showed that he’s dangerous attacking every level of the field.

tm down_dist plays epa/play suc_% pass_% epa/pass epa/run suc_%_pass suc_%_run
KC 1st 32 0.13 53% 59% 0.33 -0.16 63% 38%
TEN 1st 28 0.09 50% 39% 0.18 0.03 55% 47%
KC 2nd_1-3 8 0.13 62% 38% -0.51 0.52 33% 80%
TEN 2nd_1-3 4 0.23 50% 50% 1.16 -0.7 100% 0%
KC 2nd_4-7 4 0.18 50% 50% 1.1 -0.73 100% 0%
TEN 2nd_4-7 8 0.25 50% 88% 0.24 0.33 43% 100%
KC 2nd_8+ 12 0.07 50% 92% 0.43 -3.94 55% 0%
TEN 2nd_8+ 7 0.23 29% 71% 0.56 -0.58 40% 0%
KC 3/4_1-4 6 1.41 100% 83% 1.41 1.41 100% 100%
TEN 3/4_1-4 5 0.06 60% 60% 0.28 -0.27 67% 50%
KC 3/4_5+ 6 1.11 50% 100% 1.11 0 50% 0%
TEN 3/4_5+ 10 -0.03 30% 100% -0.03 0 30% 0%
KC all 68 0.32 57% 68% 0.55 -0.16 63% 45%
TEN all 62 0.11 45% 61% 0.25 -0.09 47% 42%

EPA (expected points added): The amount that a play adds (or subtracts if negative) to the number of points the offense is expected to score on the next scoring play. Positive EPA represents a successful play (e.g. suc_%), EPA takes into account down and distance where yards per play does not.

EPA Chart Takeaway

Both teams were inefficient running the ball. The Chiefs dominated throwing the ball, averaging 0.33 EPA per play on first down pass plays (Titans 0.18) and 0.55 overall (Titans 0.25).

As for Tennessee, their defense went from allowing 25 points in the first two playoff games to 35 points today, as their secondary simply couldn’t keep up with Kansas City’s weapons. Even with a slick game plan of mixing up coverages and hitting the Chiefs with all of the “blueprints” from previous successful games against the Chiefs, Mahomes simply outdueled the chalkboard with brilliant playmaking and decision making.

If the Titans were going to compete, it had to be through the passing game, where QB Ryan Tannehill got off to a solid start, but he ultimately missed too many throws and held the ball too long on three sacks, the last of which sealed the game on 4th-and-6. Running back Derrick Henry had a long run of 13, as he was corralled by a feisty Kansas City defense that missed only four tackles on the afternoon. It was an incredible run by the Titans who went from 2-4 start to underdog playoff darlings, but the Chiefs were too much for them and they head to the Super Bowl, where Mahomes and company will look to earn Andy Reid his first championship as head coach.

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