Patrick Mahomes’ night, a reminder QB’s position is key; Bear unlocking fields

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anyone who watched the Tennessee Titans’ 20-17 overtime loss to Kansas City on Sunday night football understood a simple fact: it’s hard to win in this league when you don’t know how to shoot. The Chiefs had an elite quarterback running their offense in Patrick Mahomes. The Titans were doing what they always do, relying on running back Derrick Henry to lead their team while letting the quarterback — in this case, rookie flagger Malik Willis, replacing starter Ryan Tannehill — play. a supporting role. In other words, Tennessee could create an opportunity to win, but the Chiefs had the ultimate weapon to reach this feat.

So let’s take that lesson and apply it to the NFL as we move past the midpoint of the 2022 season. It seems like teams are running more than ever, whether that’s using quarterbacks as designated runners or just doing what the Titans and tying their offenses to cowbell back shoulders. It’s the year we’ve seen many veteran star passers struggle to find success, with future Hall of Famers like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers tasting their fair share of frustration. On the other hand, many surprise teams have made their way into the postseason, a group that includes Atlanta, Seattle and the New York Giants.

It’s hard to find quarterbacks like Buffalo’s Mahomes or Josh Allen. It’s equally hard to believe that a team running it strongly can win it all, even in a season when the ground and the pound are becoming more popular. “You always have to have a quarterback who can make the big throw at a crucial moment,” an AFC personnel director said. “No matter how you move the chains, you need that dimension to win a championship. The other element is quick striking. You can run the ball successfully and be a contending team, but at some point , you’ll have to hit a big vertical game.”

Tennessee provided plenty of evidence for that argument Sunday night. While Mahomes dominated — throwing for 446 yards (on 68 attempts) and running for a team-high 63 yards — Willis completed just five of his 16 passes. Henry was able to hurt the Chiefs early, en route to 115 yards and two touchdowns. He also wasn’t as influential in the second half, when the Chiefs sold out to stop the run and forced Willis to try to do more with his arm.

The Titans have long been proud of this blue-collar approach, especially as they have won the last two AFC South titles and won the AFC’s top seed in the year’s playoffs. last. “We know how we’ve built our team, we know what works for us, and we’re not changing the recipe,” Titans center Ben Jones said after the game. It’s even fair to wonder what might have happened against Kansas City if Tannehill had been able to overcome an ankle injury and play. However, the plays Mahomes and Allen can make in those clutch situations play a big role in how playoff games are decided.

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