By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On a day when the Kansas City offense bolted out of its slumber with a 51-point onslaught in just three quarters against the Houston Texans, it was the play of defensive end Frank Clark that made the case of why the Chiefs may finally break through to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years.
“I thought Frank was just a beast today,” head coach Andy Reid said after his star defensive end constantly and consistently harangued and harassed Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
This was exactly the game Chiefs general manager Brett Veach had in mind when he sent his team’s 2019 first-round selection and a 2020 second-round pick to Seattle simply for the right to ink Clark to a five-year deal worth $105.5 million.
Clark tied a franchise postseason game record with three sacks against the Texans. That matched the total of defensive end Aaron Brown, who picked up three sacks against Oakland in the AFL title game that sent the Chiefs to Super Bowl IV and led to their only world championship in 1970.
But Sunday’s win wasn’t easy. The Chiefs fell down 24-0 early in the second quarter before launching the biggest comeback in club history and the fourth-biggest comeback in NFL history. The Chiefs got too far ahead of themselves early in the game, Clark explained.
“When you get too far ahead of yourself, that’s when things stop going your way,” Clark said. “As you saw out there, it was confusion, you see dropped passes in the beginning, you see missed tackles, you see blown assignments and we got the result of that.”
Clark told his teammates on the sideline that they couldn’t quit just because they were down.
“There’s too much invested into this team, there’s too much invested into our lives for us to give up,” Clark said. “There’s too many people relying on us. So just giving up, that’s not in our nature.”
The Chiefs offense did what it could do – “Thank God we got Pat Mahomes because if we didn’t I’m not sure the results would be the same,” Clark said.
But the defense certainly did its part as well. As the Chiefs rattled off 51 points in the final 40 minutes of the game, the defense allowed just a single touchdown. Clark saw plenty of heart from his mates on the defensive line, especially with Chris Jones sidelined with a calf injury.
“As a team, we had a lot of guys who went down and a lot of guys who stepped up,” Clark said. “Mike Pennel in there on the inside. You had Derrick Nnadi, you put some more pressure on him but guys are stepping up, my rookie, you got Khalen Saunders he stepped up. Hats off to the guys inside, they are the heart of our defense.”
Clark has plenty of heart, too, and he put it on display with his signature play on Houston’s first drive of the second half. The Texans faced a third-and-5 at their own 31. Clark, as he did much of the day, got the jump on left tackle Laremy Tunsil and forced Watson to step up in the pocket to avoid the sack. Clark refused to surrender, however, and circled back to put Watson in his sight once again. Watson evaded, and Clark fell to the ground.
He regained his feet and sought Watson again, this time corralling the elusive quarterback for the sack. Clark covered 42.2 yards in 10.8 seconds, both the second-most yards traveled and the second-longest time from snap-to-sack in the league this season.
Frank Clark's 3rd down sack on Deshaun Watson took 10.8 seconds from snap-to-sack, the 2nd-longest sack this season.@TheRealFrankC_ traveled 42.2 yards of in-play distance, the 2nd most distance traveled on a sack.#HOUvsKC | #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/mIXHegNvFM
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 12, 2020
That relentlessness says everything about who Clark is, both on and off the field.
“It comes from coming from the bottom,” Clark said. “I come from the hood, I’m from the hood. Where I come from, it’s not a lot of opportunities to do things like this, to go out here and have fun.”
Clark often speaks of the tough times for his family growing up, persevering through homelessness to become one of the top edge rushers in the NFL. He’s now found a home in Kansas City.
“There’s no other place I’d rather be.,” Clark said. “I don’t regret nothing. There’s no other place I’d rather be but here with these guys and Chiefs kingdom.”
Clark believes right now the Chiefs have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but he still feels the best is yet to come.
“It’s not finished,” Clark said. “This isn’t the finished product. Hopefully, when you see the finished product, we’re holding up that trophy at the end.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and a contributor for Sports Radio 810 WHB. Follow him on Twitter @mattderrick.