Towering above a raised microphone following the Chiefs’ 27-24 home win Sunday against the Denver Broncos, Jones insisted he has defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s blessing to make minor shifts outside of the actual defensive play call.
“He gives me the freedom,” Jones said with a grin.
But here? On fourth-and-2 with Denver driving late in the fourth quarter? With potentially the chance to win?
Jones had wisdom from earlier in the game and knowledge of the defense behind him. As a result, he believed he could gain an edge while also not impacting the teammates around him.
And he was right. A few seconds later, he shimmied around Broncos center Graham Glasgow, wrapping up Denver quarterback Russell Wilson for the game-securing sack as KC’s defense produced a final defensive stand.
“He’s insane,” teammate George Karlaftis said of Jones afterward. “He’s the best interior lineman in the NFL. I don’t think it’s close.”
This example showed how Jones can beat teams with his intellect as well.
He said Spagnuolo called a specific pressure look on that fourth-and-2 that the Chiefs had tried earlier in the game. On that play, Jones noticed he was single-teamed by the center Glasgow but wasn’t in the perfect position to get by him.
Fast forward to the game-changing play. Jones said — without securing direct permission — he shifted outside the play call to line up as a “shade,” putting himself toward the left shoulder of the center Glasgow.
If Jones got that same look the Broncos showed earlier, he’d be able to avoid any double-team on the outside … and potentially give himself the best chance to win his own matchup.
It ended up making a difference. Glasgow’s stab attempt to stop Jones was short-lived, as the Chiefs lineman won to Glasgow’s left while charging straight upfield for the sack on Wilson.
“We know he’s going to do his part and make big plays like that,” Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay said. “It’s natural. It’s second nature.”
And in this instance, the tiny edge was gained by also having an awareness of the chess pieces around him.
Jones said he understood the type of coverage KC’s defense was playing, along with the pressure look that Spagnuolo was aiming to bring. That knowledge allowed him to know the alterations he could make while also not impeding the duties of his teammates.
He also got an unintentional assist from teammate Frank Clark. While trying to anticipate the snap count, Clark flinched before the snap, nearly coming across the line of scrimmage for an offside penalty.
Seeing the movement in his periphery, Glasgow snapped the ball early while trying to draw the penalty. It’s why replays showed Wilson getting the football before he anticipated … and perhaps Glasgow not being as prepared to block Jones as he wanted.
“I thought we were going to get a free play out of it, so I pulled the ball,” Glasgow said. “It turns out he didn’t jump, so as I said, I make a mistake there, and unfortunately, that was the game.”
Jones’ sack didn’t go through without some controversy. He held Wilson in place for a few seconds, but when officials didn’t blow the play dead and Wilson cocked back to throw, Jones finished the sack by body-slamming the QB to the turf.
When asked about the toss afterward, Jones downplayed the moment while deadpanning.
“I was trying to politely put Russ down,” Jones said with a smile. “Unfortunately for those who were viewing it, it kind of looked rough, but it wasn’t. You see after the play, he immediately got up.”
This was just Jones’s latest standout showing in a potential career year.
His 13 sacks this season are the second-highest of his career, behind only his 15 1/2-sack 2018 campaign. Also, coming into the week, his 91.9 defensive grade at Pro Football Focus ranked third among all defensive players who’d registered at least half their team’s snaps; only Cleveland’s Myles Garrett and the Giants’ Dexter Lawrence rated higher.
“He has, what, 13 sacks, but he don’t really care about them. He just goes out and tries to do what he can do,” Chiefs defensive lineman Khalen Saunders said. “When he’s getting doubled, he’ll try to draw attention elsewhere. That’s the type of players you need to get to a championship level.”
Perhaps the highest praise Sunday came from the rookie Karlaftis, who labeled Jones as the “heart and soul of our defense.”
“He’s a beast, man,” Karlaftis said. “He’s awesome to play next to.”