The Tennessee Titans thoroughly dominated and embarrassed the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s comfortable 27-3 victory at Nissan Stadium. There’s a lot of credit to go around. Derrick Henry controlled the clock. Ryan Tannehill and the passing game rarely put a wrong foot forward. The offensive line dealt with a plethora of injuries, and managed to shuffle players in and out of the lineup with little issue.
But we all need to make sure that two under-the-radar players get their roses throughout the week: Safety Dane Cruikshank and linebacker Rashaan Evans.
Starting with Cruikshank, he was a surprise start after Amani Hooker was added to the injury report on Friday with a groin ailment. Friday injuries are never a good sign, and Cruikshank was pushed into the starting lineup. Drawing an unexpected start against Mahomes and his murderer’s row of weapons puts a secondary defender in an extremely difficult spot. The former fifth-round pick out of Arizona was an absolute warrior on Sunday. Cruikshank often drew the toughest assignment on the field in the form of one-v-one coverage with Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. Cruikshank routinely held Kelce in check. Kelce let his emotions boil over as he often showcased frustration with his body language. Cruikshank ultimately led the Titans in tackles with seven and had a late-game interception unfortunately wiped out by a penalty that occurred far away from the play. Cruikshank got under Kelce’s skin en route to a big day.
Onto Evans. The former Alabama standout is often the subject of criticism. The inside linebacker played a quality football game in all aspects. A former first-round pick that’s currently in a contract season, Evans perhaps made the best play of his career in the passing game when he intercepted Mahomes in the first half. Theoretically speaking, Kansas City represents the worst type of matchup for Evans on paper. A better player against the run, Evans was tasked with holding his own against Mahomes and Kansas City’s fearful passing attack. Evans did just that.
The Titans possess quite a bit of star power, but it was their unheralded players that powered them to victory.