Bashaud Breeland was fantastic both in coverage (he picked off 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo early on) and in run support as their leading tackler. Edge rusher Frank Clark cashed the check that his mouth wrote by putting a ton of pressure on Garoppolo late when it mattered most, and he also got home with a fourth-down sack that effectively ended the game.
Some folks might say it had even more.
3 plays Jones made that helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl 54
The stat sheet might not have shown it, but the film told a different story. I said in my Super Bowl preview I didn’t think the Chiefs would have much of a chance if Jones was only in sparingly, and sure enough he was back to full-time duty and in there on early downs. Once again, it was on several passing plays where Jones truly left his mark.
The first play came early in the second quarter, just after the Chiefs had scored their first touchdown of the game to go up 7-3. After one of Breeland’s tackles for a loss threw the 49ers’ offense off schedule, Jones knew they would probably have to throw. He then unleashed the rarely seen, and even more rarely successful, forklift-to-an-arm-over move on San Francisco right guard Mike Person to blow by him and get almost immediate pressure on Garoppolo.
Although he missed the sack, Jones’ pressure forced the quarterback up into more pressure from fellow Chiefs defensive lineman Mike Pennel. That directly led to Garoppolo making one of the worst decisions of the game, an absolute duck down the field in Emmanuel Sanders’ general direction that Breeland easily picked off:
Stonecold and Big Mike with the pressure, Breezy with the pick pic.twitter.com/9G79wL3jyV
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) February 3, 2020
Hell, he probably could’ve fair caught it.
Sanders wasn’t open at any point in his route and, had he had time to notice, I highly doubt Garoppolo would’ve even attempted that throw. Thanks to Jones’ quick manhandling and discarding of Person, Jimmy G did not have that time, though. After that interception, the Chiefs’ offense marched right down the field and scored a field goal to take a 10-3 lead.
That was huge, but maybe not as huge as Jones’ second big play against the pass on Sunday.
2. Jones batted down a pass, and it might’ve been the turning point of the game
With 5:26 left in the game, 49ers were trying to protect a 20-17 lead.
San Francisco elected to pass on second-and-5 after 49ers running back Raheem Mostert had rushed for a 5-yard gain. Not what I would’ve done, but the reality is the play did have a great chance of success.
The 49ers had rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel — who had been an early star on end-arounds and jet sweeps — motion away, with all-world tight end George Kittle in between the numbers and the hash marks to that side. When the ball was snapped, Samuel went out wide as if waiting for a screen pass. Kittle went upfield kinda looking like a blocker, but then he curled inside a couple of yards beyond the sticks. It should have been a relatively easy completion, especially since KC’s defense blitzed on the play and had the 37-year-old edge rusher Terrell Suggs in coverage on Kittle.
They probably would have succeeded, too, if it weren’t for that meddling Jones. Him jumping up and knocking the pass down may well have changed both teams’ fortunes that night.
On the one hand, if Kittle catches that ball, he is probably getting the ball at least to the 49ers’ 35-yard line, in the middle of the field with the clock still running. That also would’ve meant a new set of downs and more plays to run the clock. Maybe, just maybe, after picking up that first down, 49ers head coach/playcaller Kyle Shanahan would’ve come to his senses and gotten back to running the ball, including giving Samuel another opportunity on an end-around or jet sweep.
(Side note: This is exactly why the criticism of Shanahan not running the football late is more than fair. Even when you call a “good” pass play, there are just so many more variables that go into whether its actually successful than if you run the ball. That is especially true when running the ball is what you do well and best.)
But Jones did knock the pass down and that not only stopped the clock, it also forced the 49ers into trying to throw the ball again on third down. That throw was also incomplete.
In a situation where they were, at least in theory, attempting to salt the clock away, the 49ers ended up punting the ball back to the Chiefs after their drive lasted only a minute. The Chiefs didn’t use a single timeout, which is f’n absurd.
You can at least partially thank Jones for that.
3. Jones’ other batted down pass killed what could’ve been a large 49ers gain
The third big play of the night was another pass that Jones knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Now it was the Chiefs trying to defend their four-point lead with less than two minutes left in the game. This time, it was on a ball meant to go to Samuel in the middle of the field on a route where he broke outside, then back inside. It, also, should’ve been a relatively easy completion.
I don’t know if you’d seen Samuel running with the ball in his hands a lot before the Super Bowl, but if he catches that pass with that much space to run, there really is no telling just how many yards he might’ve picked up. He already had cornerback Charvarius Ward in his rear view, and it appears that Tyrann Mathieu could’ve been shielded off by Kittle up the seam, giving Samuel at least a small lane to turn up field.
That could’ve made things really interesting, considering the 49ers were already at the Chiefs’ 49-yard line. But, once again, they were foiled by one of Jones’ mitts.
He also got his right pinky finger on the second down play as well, but I’m not sure that pass wouldn’t have been picked off if he hadn’t, so I will just mention it and move on, lol. The aforementioned Clark sack came two plays after that.
Mind you, back when I played, many moons ago, we actually made fun of guys who knocked down a lot of passes because we thought it was a sign they couldn’t rush the passer. But I have come to appreciate those batted down passes a lot more after I finished playing, especially when a player like Jones is the one doing it.
Jones earned himself a big payday in free agency
I’ve been a Jones fan since back when I was working on his pre-draft breakdown in the spring of 2016. At 6’5 and over 300 pounds, the fact that Jones was as quick as a cat really stood out, and his athleticism was readily apparent on film. The only question I ever had about him was whether he would play hard enough, consistently enough, to be the dominant player he should be.
Four years into his career, I think it’s safe to say he has answered all those questions about his hustle, though.
I knew he was playing his ass off this year, but I admit to being shocked at seeing this graph on my Twitter timeline:
Double team rate as a defensive tackle (x) by pass rush win rate as a defensive tackle (y) for the 2019 regular season.
PRWR = rate pass rusher beats blocker in 2.5 seconds.
ESPN metrics, NFL Next Gen Stats data. pic.twitter.com/sUCFwARoJi
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 30, 2019
Jones was one of the most double-teamed interior pass rushers this season but still managed to have more success than just about any interior rusher not named Aaron Donald or Grady Jarrett — and Jarrett was double-teamed way less. For him to be playing at a similar level to Donald goes to show how just far Jones has come in maximizing his ridiculous amount of talent.
Jones one-upped himself with how he played in the Super Bowl, which was good timing because he’s set to be a free agent this offseason.
I am not a “cap guy,” so I don’t know what the Chiefs can afford to pay Jones, or if he would be willing to take a “discount” to stay with a team that looks to be built to win, or if cash rules everything around him, cream get the money. What I will say, however, is that whatever amount of money you thought a young Ndamukong Suh was worth in free agency? Go ahead and apply that to Jones if he decides he wants to go to the highest bidder.
Because that should be his value.
In fact, Jones is the pass rusher people always seemed to think Suh was. They both are hellafied power rushers, but Jones has the edge when it comes to quick finesse moves and changeups.
Oh and, stats wise, the sack numbers in their first four years aren’t even close. Suh has only had nine or more sacks once in his career, ever. Jones has already done it twice, including a ridiculous 15.5 sacks he notched last season.
All a young Suh has over Jones is a better motor, but few people have ever had the kind of motor Suh had, and Jones has certainly closed that gap since becoming a pro. I’m just telling you that with his skill level and versatility, any team could build their defense around this Jones guy and be set for many years to come.
Not that he needed an exclamation mark after the start to his career that he’s had, but Chris Jones’ performance this year has certainly provided him with one. His play against the 49ers not only secured his legacy as a Super Bowl champion, but he also likely helped to secure an even bigger bag this spring, as well.
Not bad for one evening’s work, even if his impact did fly a little under the radar for some people.
That’s that I’m here for.