Texans coach Gary Kubiak felt an overwhelming sense of empathy for Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor when he watched video of him against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.
If Pryor turned one direction, he ran into Tamba Hali. Turn the other, Justin Houston was on top of him. Try to step up in the pocket and Derrick Johnson was waiting.
Pryor was sacked 10 times in a 24-7 victory that kept the Chiefs unbeaten.
”When you get 10 in one game, it’s kind of hard to say, `We have to block that guy,”’ said Kubiak, who is trying to come up with a plan to slow down that pass rush Sunday.
”Andy Reid’s got such a quality team thing going on right now,” Kubiak said, ”and that’s what good teams do. Production comes from everywhere, not one or two places. You can see the energy they’re feeding off of, and the way they’re playing, pretty impressive.”
Just how impressive? Record-setting.
The Chiefs’ second-best single-game total left them with 31 sacks from 10 different players through their first six games, putting them on pace for 82 1/2 sacks by the end of the regular season. That would not only shatter the club mark of 60 set in 1990, but the NFL record of 72 set by the ’84 Bears. The sack became an official stat recorded by the league in 1982.
Houston leads the Chiefs with 9 1/2 sacks — his career-best of 10 was set just last year — and is tied with the Colts’ Robert Mathis for the most in the NFL. Hali is fourth with 7 1/2 sacks.
It was Hali who terrorized Pryor last weekend. He had 3 1/2 sacks to just one for teammate Houston, winning what has turned into a weekly battle.
”Justin could have gone out there and had a heck of a game,” Hali said, ”but we knew about this quarterback and his scrambling ability to our left, his right, which allowed me to come off the edge and let me buy some time to get there.
”Our chemistry,” Hali said, ”we definitely understand what we want to get done.”
After all, Hali has been getting it done for quite a while. He has 70 sacks since his rookie season of 2006, three shy of Art Still for third on the franchise list. The only players to have more in a Chiefs uniform were Derrick Thomas (126.5) and Neil Smith (86.5), two of the stalwarts on that 1990 team that bullied quarterbacks in a similar fashion.
His play last season wasn’t nearly at the same level, though, at least statistically speaking, and that begs the question: What has changed this season? Most of the pass-rush pieces on what has emerged as the NFL’s stingiest defense were already in place when a new coaching staff arrived.
The credit belongs to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, who has been dialing up aggressive game plans ever since a season-opening win over Jacksonville.
”Bob Sutton does a tremendous job along with his assistants of making everybody be aware that it’s not just going to be outside linebackers,” Hali said. ”We’re all going to put pressure on the quarterback. They do a great job with us, and we all just go out there and execute.”
The result is a sack rate of 12.1 percent – in other words, better than one in every 10 plays that an opposing offense runs results in its quarterback lying on his back.
”We’re doing our job and having our fun doing it. We know they can’t double both sides at once,” Houston said. ”It’s really just a feel, we play off each other.”
All the pressure that Hali and Houston create from the edges has freed up other guys to get in on the fun. Johnson had two sacks against Oakland, defensive tackle Dontari Poe has been all over opposing quarterbacks, and even safety Eric Berry is been in on the pressure.
”We’ve got players like Justin and Tamba that are willing to do anything to help us win,” Berry said. ”Those guys are so unselfish. They put it on the line every week. I think that speaks a lot to the character of our defense.”
Notes: Chiefs TE Anthony Fasano (sprained ankle) returned to practice after missing his last four games. ”We’ve done everything we could rehab-wise to get it there,” he said. ”It’s not 100 percent, but it feels pretty good.” … S Kendrick Lewis (sprained ankle) was the only player held out of practice Wednesday.