Is Chiefs DT Chris Jones NFL’s most unheralded elite defender?

Chris Jones brought hell on earth to the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the AFC Championship Game, he drew double teams and wreaked havoc anyway, using his rare size and length for a defensive attack. And after Cincinnati tied the game at 20 in the fourth quarter, threatening Kansas City’s Super Bowl return hopes, Jones made another move.

On third-and-2 with 1:27 left, Jones brought down Bengals guard Max Scharping to blow up the pocket and force Joe Burrow’s intentional grounding. Then, to end the Bengals’ potential game-winner, Jones showed off his versatility. On third-and-8 from the Cincinnati 35 with 44 seconds left, he lined up on the edge, facing Bengals right tackle Hakeem Adeniji. Jones beat Adeniji on an outside play, sacked Burrow for a seven-yard loss and gestured toward the Bengals’ sideline as he jogged down the field.

“The most unstoppable man in football,” Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said after the game.

It is a proclamation not universally recognized.

Several elite defenders receive more praise than Jones. Consider Nick Bosa, the favorite for AP Defensive Player of the Year. Or Micah Parsons. Or Aaron Donald and TJ Watt when healthy. But Jones, who arguably had the best season of his career in 2022 (tying a game-high 15.5 sacks en route to first-team All-Pro honors), is on par with those guys. He’s the leader of a Chiefs defense that can’t let Patrick Mahomes down.

Mahomes praises Chiefs O-line and DBs

Mahomes praises Chiefs O-line and DBs

Patrick Mahomes joins Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes in “First Things First” to give Kansas City’s offensive line and defensive backs their flowers going into Super Bowl LVII.

On Sunday Super Bowl LVII against the Eagles (6:30 PM ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), who have several elite defenders, Jones might be the best on the field. At the very least, he’s the one whose greatness is most evident when compared to his cast.

Philadelphia has four players with at least 11 sacks (Haason Reddick, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham) and the NFL’s best secondary, featuring stars Darius Slay and James Bradberry. Reddick and Slay are Pro Bowlers this season. Bradberry was named a second-team All-Pro selection.

Jones is the only Kansas City linebacker who is a Pro Bowler or was named to an All-Pro team.

“My job is to make sure I play hard, play physical, set a different side of the line of scrimmage and make sure my teammates around me make plays,” Jones said last week. “It’s to carry the double team all game, or it’s to get the one on one and win.”

There is no better pass defensive tackle in football than Jones. In the regular season, he led all interior defensive linemen in pressures (77), sacks (15.5) and hurries (50), according to Pro Football Focus. He also led all defensive tackles with a 21.5 percent pass rush win percentage, which measures how often a pass rusher beats his block within 2.5 seconds, according to ESPN Analytics. That was while facing more double teams than any other interior defender (69%).

Kansas City’s defense has been relatively average by several metrics, including points allowed (16th), passing yards allowed (18th), third-down efficiency (13th) and tackles (tied-20th). He was second-worst in red zone efficiency during the regular season, allowing touchdowns on 67.3 percent of opponent possessions that reached the 20-yard line.

But the quickstep has been the unit’s calling card, and at the helm is Jones.

The Chiefs had 55 sacks in the regular season, second only to the Eagles’ 70, and 188 pressures, sixth in the league, according to Next Gen Stats. The ability to consistently generate pressure has led to many wins, including the AFC title game. Burrow was sacked five times, including four times in the first half, and was pressured 29 times, according to PFF. The latter tied a season high with Kansas City.

Besides Jones, three other Chiefs players had at least five sacks in the regular season: rookie George Karlaftis (six), Clark (five) and Michael Danna (five).

“We were playing together, the whole defense,” Danna said of the Bengals’ game. “We executed the calls that the coach gave us, the pressure, the stunts [and] we hit on all cylinders so that was great. we have arrived [Burrow].”

Prior to last week’s AFC title game, Jones had not posted a sack in his previous 12 playoff games. It was a shadow over his greatness, something he erased with his two-sack, five-quarterback effort that helped the Chiefs return to the Super Bowl for the third time in four seasons.

It was a performance his offseason program had been leading up to, Jones said. He was frustrated that he didn’t make enough big plays in last season’s AFC title game against Cincinnati, a season-ending loss to Kansas City. This time he wanted to answer the doorbell.

“I really personally don’t care about playoff stats,” Jones said. “I don’t really care, but I’m glad you can have another story that Chris Jones finally got a sack [in the playoffs].”

How about this story: Jones has an argument as the best defender in football.

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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