Chiefs defense keeps marching toward shattering NFL sack record
Led by Hali and Houston, the Chiefs are getting sacks at a record-setting rate
By JEFFREY FLANAGANFS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When the
Kansas City Chiefs defense recorded 10 sacks Sunday, linebacker Justin Houston shook his head and simply called the feat "stupid," as in crazy good, of course.
But as the sacks recorded by Chiefs' defense mount each week, the situation, one could say, is getting seriously stupid.
Consider that the Chiefs now have 31 sacks through six games -- or four more than they had all of last season.
Consider that the Chiefs' single-season record is 60 set in 1990, a mark the Chiefs look to break by their 12th game.
And consider that the Chiefs are on pace for 83 sacks for the season, which would shatter the NFL record of 72 set by the 1984 Chicago Bears.
Indeed, the 2013 Chiefs defense is on a historical pace, even if its players aren't really taking notice yet.
"We don't set our goals like that," linebacker Tamba Hali said. "We set our goals in wins, because we haven't had enough of those in recent years.
"Now, being able to accomplish those things as we go on winning, that's nice."
Hali got in on the sack party Sunday, getting 3 1/2, which puts him at 7 1/2 for the season and third in the NFL behind teammate Houston and the Colts' Robert Mathis, who are tied for the league lead at 9 1/2.
That Hali had a big statistical day seemed to elate his teammates more than Hali himself.
"I'm very happy for him," Houston said. "He's a guy who works so hard and he's the guy I try to copy. I've learned all my moves from him. But each game it can be someone different who gets the sacks."
Hali also got some recognition nationally Wednesday. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, the third time a Chiefs player has received the honor this year. Houston has the other two.
"But it's really about team defense," Hali said. "It's about everyone being in the right position. And sometimes the light shines on you and you get the attention.
"Like this week, on Sunday, Justin had to back off because we knew of the scrambling ability of their quarterback and where he scrambles, which is to his right, our left. That's where Justin was and he stayed. That allowed me to come off the edge."
It's also about communication.
"We talk all the time," Houston said of him and Hali. "We talk on the sideline about what's working, what's not and what might work."
It's no secret that the Chiefs' gaudy sack numbers wouldn't be anywhere near where they are without Houston and Hali, who have 17 combined sacks. They also are on pace to top the 29 combined sacks recorded by the duo of Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith during the record sack season of the 1990 Chiefs.
"It's not just us," Hali insisted. "I look at awards and records as a team thing. It's everyone, the players and the coaches. It's just once in a while, like I said, the light shines on one guy, but it's a team thing.
"(Defensive coordinator) Bob Sutton puts us in the right position. And then everyone has to be comfortable with their jobs.
"Our chemistry, the whole defense, is really good about that."
Still, one cannot downplay the individual talent Houston and Hali each possess, even if Hali is often considered more of a grinder than a gifted athlete.
Hali laughs when it is suggested he might not get enough credit for his physical skills.
"I'm not the athlete that everyone wants me to be," he said, smiling. "But I go with effort. I'm not a freak of nature like (Julius) Peppers, and 6 (feet) 7. I'm more (stout).
"But hey, God made me the way He wanted to make me, at least genetically. But I do what I can do. I just put it to work.
"It's just running toward the ball, keep running toward the ball. Once you do that, a lot of good things can happen."
A lot of good things are happening, perhaps enough for the 2013 Chiefs defense to creep into the record books.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email email@example.com.