Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the Chiefs' thrilling 23-20 win in Sunday's AFC Championship game and Patrick Mahomes' gutsy performance was the impact of their best defensive player, Chris Jones. Jones may have been the most important player on the field Sunday.
He delivered big play-after-play in Kansas City's win. He pressured Joe Burrow on the final play of the first half to force a field goal. His pressure created the intentional grounding call on Burrow in the final two minutes of the game, and his second sack of the game forced the Bengals' punt, which led to the Chiefs' game-winning drive. That final sack also showcased Jones' versatility, as the defensive tackle was lined up over Cincinnati's right tackle.
Chris Jones is EATING tonight @NFL pic.twitter.com/uzZcnRcUOL— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 30, 2023
In all, Jones recorded 10 pressures, five quarterback hits and 2.0 sacks. Burrow was 2-of-6 passing for 17 yards, two sacks, an intentional grounding penalty and one scramble for three yards on Jones' 10 pressures.
It was just the fourth instance this season (regular season or playoffs) of a player racking up 10 pressures, five quarterback hits and 2.0 sacks in a game, and Jones is now responsible for two of them. (Chandler Jones and Nick Bosa did it once a piece.) It was the first time in six years a player had 2.0 sacks and five QB hits in a playoff game. (Trey Flowers was the last, doing so in Super Bowl LII vs Falcons).
Simply put, it was one of the most dominant performances by any player all year, and it came at the most opportune time as the Chiefs offense was not humming as usual with a banged-up Mahomes and Travis Kelce.
It should come as no surprise, in some respects. that Jones is the best interior defensive lineman in the game not named Aaron Donald. It was certainly reminiscent of Donald's performance against Burrow last postseason, when he had 2.0 sacks, three QB hits and seven pressures in the Rams' Super Bowl LVI win. Now, it's time for Jones to get some Donald-like praise.
Aaron Donald vs. Chris Jones (playoff wins vs. Bengals)
|Aaron Donald||Chris Jones|
Super Bowl LVI
2022 AFC Championship
Tackles for loss
Jones ranks top three in the NFL in sacks (17.5), QB hits (35) and pressures (93) this season, including playoffs. However, he entered Sunday's game with zero sacks in 13 career playoff games. He had played the most snaps (560) of any defensive lineman in the last 10 postseasons without a sack, according to CBS researcher Ryan Satsky.
Next stop for Jones? The best offensive line in football, and perhaps the best center in the game. Eagles center Jason Kelce has not allowed a sack the entire season. If Jones can come close to repeating his performance from the AFC Championship game, maybe we'll be talking about Super Bowl MVP honors.