Derek Carr had just completed a 24-yard pass to Amari Cooper to set up the Raiders at the Chiefs’ 37. The Raiders trailed by six points in the second quarter but were on the move until Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones made the best mistake of his rookie season.
That’s right, a mistake.
Two snaps later, running back Jalen Richard took the handoff and there was Jones, a one-man greeting committee there to take him down for a 3-yard loss.
The play was huge. From second and short, the Raiders faced third and 5, and Carr tossed two straight incomplete passes. The Chiefs held on because Jones changed the possession … by blowing his assignment.
“I actually ran the wrong play,” Jones said. “If I hadn’t have made that play I probably would have been cussed out, chewed out.”
“I spiked the gap,” Jones said. “I was supposed to contain. Luckily, thank God, I was blessed enough to make the play.”
Basically, Jones charged between the tackle and guard, blowing past tackle Austin Howard, when he should have maintained his position. But it worked wonderfully for the Chiefs, who went on to a 26-10 victory.
Nobody was the wiser. Rich Gannon, calling the game on CBS, said “good instincts there by Chris Jones,” on the broadcast.
Jones recorded 24 defensive snaps against the Raiders, and the rookie from Mississippi State is about to see plenty more action after an injury to Allen Bailey, who tore his right pectoral muscle in the game. Bailey, placed on injured reserve, will undergo surgery Monday and his return timetable is uncertain.
“It’s a huge impact, a tough loss,” Jones said. “He’s a veteran guy.”
The Chiefs made other moves along the defensive line this week, releasing Nick Williams while promoting Rakeem Nunez-Roches from the practice squad and signing veteran free agent Kendall Reyes.
Jones is prepared for the additional workload. His defensive snaps have steadily increased, from an average of 15 in the first three games, to 26 snaps against the Steelers and 24 against the Raiders as his presence in the defensive-line rotation increased.
This is what the Chiefs had in mind when they selected Jones with their first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft at No. 37 overall. After an up-and-down three seasons in college, Jones’ stock rose as the NFL Draft approached.
There were questions about Jones’ motor but the Chiefs loved the athleticism in his 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame, and nobody has questioned Jones’ energy level this season. A pocket-collapsing tackle is the role envisioned, and Jones has proved he can move offensive linemen, but he hasn’t recorded a sack.
Last week’s tackle for a loss was his first of the season, and his celebration was tempered when he caught the eye of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton on the sideline.
“He gave me this look like, ‘You better have made the play,’ ” Jones said.
When the play was dissected during film study, Sutton used it as a teaching moment.
“He said if you’re going to do something wrong, do it to the best of your ability,” Jones said. “Go hard, make the dang play. You better do that.”
The profitable mistake reminded Jones of a similar experience at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were facing Arkansas and Jones wound up where he shouldn’t have been. But he made the tackle.
It appears he’s about to get more chances to get it right.
“These are opportunities you have to take advantage of,” Jones said. “This doesn’t come often. I don’t wish injuries on anyone. I’m going to utilize my ability to execute the defense, play hard and make plays.”