Why the unsung hero of Chiefs rule, Chris Jones, doesn’t need credit — just Super Bowls

GLENDALE, Arizona – Chris Jones knows how to keep quiet.

The Chiefs’ star defensive tackle didn’t blow up the stats during his second Super Bowl win, but the Eagles absolutely felt his presence.

The playbook shows just one trio of tackles during the Chiefs’ 38-35 win in Super Bowl LVII – a far cry from his two-sack performance in the AFC Championship game against the Bengals – but this was still a legacy game for Jones .

“Two Super Bowl championships, two Lombardi trophies,” Chiefs defense coach Joe Cullen said of Jones. “What he’s done, he’s on his way to a career in the Hall of Fame.”

Jones was directly responsible for the night’s biggest defensive play, making a big push and causing an offensive collapse. In third and sixth in the second quarter, Jones exploded from the snap into the gap between Eagles center Jason Kelce and left guard Landon Dickerson – causing right guard Isaac Seumalo to collapse to help while Dickerson went left — and the offense pushed back line into quarterback Jalen Hurts’ running lane, ending the scheduled draw. Hurts pulled back, fumbled, and linebacker Nick Bolton returned it for a 36-yard touchdown that made it 14-14.

Whether it was instinct to hit the gap Hurts was headed for or his overall responsibility — Jones admitted after the game he couldn’t remember — Bolton’s touchdown never would have happened without Jones.

“To me, he’s hands down the best defensive player in football,” said Chiefs defensive line coach Joe Cullen. “He’s the man in the middle who makes the defense work. If he goes, we all go.” (Matt Kartozian / USA Today)

Jones’ three tackles were all against the run, including a third-and-3 stuff against Boston Scott in the second quarter. He also helped pave the way for defensive end Frank Clark’s pressure on a third and 14-throw to stop the Eagles’ second possession.

“We always felt that because he was commanding doubles teams, he was such a dynamic player without the sack counts,” said Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. “Really, the other guys have benefited from his play, but you don’t see it because it’s not on the stat sheet.”

In 2016, Chiefs Director of Player Staff/College Scouting Ryne Nutt visited Jones in his hometown of Houston, Mississippi, and the two went out to dinner to get to know each other better. Nutt asked Jones why he thought the Chiefs should call him up, and Jones replied, “That would be the best decision they’ve ever made.”

While Jones probably wouldn’t even argue that the decision now belongs to quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ rise in 2017, he could be a close second as the value of defensive tackle to the franchise has been astronomical.

“For us he is the defensive player of the year because he does everything for us,” said Spagnuolo. “He’s definitely our most valuable defender. I wish we had about 11 of him. That would make my work a lot easier.”

Jones, who has a career-high 15.5 sacks this season, has been the Chiefs’ best defensive player for a while, but his shine hasn’t extended too far beyond Kansas City. The seven-year veteran was never named Defensive Player of the Year until last week and became a first-team AP All-Pro for the first time this season.

The 2016 second-round pick has 65 career sacks, 146 quarterback hits, 65 tackles for loss, 12 forced fumbles, two interceptions, and 33 batted passes. Among all defenders during that time, he ranks seventh in sacks and sixth in QB hits, with Aaron Donald being the only defensive tackle with more in each category. Jones has the most broken passes of defensive tackles.

“To me, he’s hands down the best defensive player in football,” Cullen said. “I’m a bit biased because I’m training him. But a big man who’s making the impact he’s been paired with two teams more than anyone else in the NFL. He influenced the running game as much as he did (against the pass). He’s the man in the middle who makes the defense work. If he goes, we all go.”

Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown played Jones three times while he was with the Ravens from 2018-2020. He recalls making a game plan for him was a chore on the offensive line.

“It was very difficult because he can do so many different things,” Brown said. “As a player, he’s someone who may not even have touched the ceiling. His skills, preparing for him, we’ve spent a lot of time studying him, breaking down to find weaknesses and there just aren’t many flaws in his game.

“His impact on the field is so much bigger than his numbers. It’s crazy the impact he can have on a game.”

The Chiefs even adjusted their plan for Jones mid-game. For example, against the Bengals, they moved Jones to tackles due to Cincinnati’s injury woes, and Jones changed the face of the game with his first two playoff sacks of his career.

Cullen knew Jones would deliver. In the week leading up to the Bengals game, as narrative focused on the arrival of quarterback Joe Burrow and Cincinnati’s 10-game winning streak, Jones and Clark put their teammates to the test.

“(They said, ‘Coach, we got this. We got this,'” Cullen recalled. “I said to my wife, ‘Frank and Chris said we have this, so I’m going to rely on that. They just took over the game. When Chris got the chance to get Joe Burrow, he caught him.

“(Jones’ usage varies) sort of by feel. Sometimes we feel it during the game. Just place the chess pieces in different places where they don’t always get a hit where it will be.

Jones, 28, is now building his legacy as a two-time Super Bowl champion and he’s still in the prime of his career.

“That speaks volumes,” Jones said. “A two-time Super Bowl champion, that’s incredible. It sounds good. It sounds good. Two rings are always better than one.”

Spagnuolo, now a three-time Super Bowl champion as defensive coordinator, certainly knows the importance of Jones and what the résumé means.

“All these guys want to be introduced as ‘Super Bowl champion,’ ‘two-time Super Bowl champion,’ one day,” Spagnuolo said. “Everyone wants that. It sticks with them for life, so I think it enhances everything they do.”

Jones doesn’t seem to care if he gets the league-wide recognition his production deserves. He shrugged that off last week when he said, “Hey, we’re in the Super Bowl.”

However, Clark has a theory as to why Jones isn’t getting as much attention as he should. Mahomes is garnering so much attention in an attacking league and the focus is shifting away from defense, particularly in the trenches.

“Chris Jones is never going to get the respect he deserves (deserves) because of the kind of team he plays on,” Clark said. “When you’re on teams like that, you never get that kind of respect. You can go back in NFL history. Think back to the Patriots when they got all those wins. I would give $100 to a person who can name any starter on the Patriots defense once they’ve had their run. You can not. All your names are Tom Brady. You can hardly name a wide receiver on this team. At the end of the day, sometimes you will never get the true recognition you deserve in this game. If you’re doing it for the credit, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”

Jones knows why he’s here. He kept that clear all week, even longer.

He might be the most underrated defensive end in the NFL, whatever that’s worth.

And it’s certainly one of the best decisions the Chiefs have ever made.

(Photo above: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

https://theathletic.com/4189356/2023/02/13/chiefs-chris-jones-super-bowl/ Why the unsung hero of Chiefs rule, Chris Jones, doesn’t need credit — just Super Bowls

Russell Falcon

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