With QBs getting rid of the ball fast, sacks have dried up for Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — You want nuts? We’ll give you nuts. This is nuts: Since Oct. 27, the Kansas City Chiefs, the baddest cats south of Leroy Brown, have recorded exactly one more NFL sack than you and your buddies in Section 308.
And if that drives you bonkers, geez, imagine how it makes Tamba Hali feel.
“Yeah, of course, it definitely bothers me,” the Chiefs’ outside linebacker said Wednesday as preparations continued for Sunday’s showdown with the San Diego Chargers. “People are saying now that we can’t get to the passer, that we can’t rush the passer.”
Well, that’s because lately, you, um — haven’t. In Week 8, Cleveland’s Jason Campbell went down once. Week 9, Buffalo’s Jeff Tuel came out clean, which was fine, because he’s Jeff Tuel.
But Denver’s Peyton Manning came away from his Week 11 dance with The Andy Gang without a scratch, too. Which was not fine, for obvious reasons.
If once is luck, then twice is a pattern. And three times? Three times is a problem.
“It’s not a problem,” safety Kendrick Lewis said. “It’s just that people are catching up (to the fact) that we’ve got some dominant pass-rushers and they’re starting to (catch) on to it.”
Hali, again: “You know, when you have success, people find a way to slow that success down. Teams are coming in and throwing the ball faster, quicker.”
Guess what? According to the experts who track that sort of thing, Tamba is pretty much on the ball.
The good folks at ProFootballFocus.com chart a stat called “Time In Pocket,” which basically does what it says. At the site, you can compare how your favorite signal-caller compares to his peers in terms of how much time it takes him to throw, scramble or get curb-stomped.
“Tuel’s average time from snap to attempting a pass (on Nov. 3 in Buffalo) was 2.2 seconds (slightly higher to 2.29 when you include his two scrambles),” Ben Stockwell, director of analysis at ProFootballFocus.com, told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. “While on Sunday night, Manning’s average snap to release time was 2.2 seconds.”
The plot thickens: Stockwell said their research showed that Tuel had let go of a pass in 2.5 seconds or fewer on 31 of his 41 dropbacks (75.6 percent), and that Manning had done the same on 28 out of 40 (70 percent).
“Prior to these two, (the Chiefs’) opposing quarterbacks (after Tony Romo in Week 2) had been holding (the ball) in excess of 2.5 seconds on average before releasing a pass,” Stockwell continued.
“And only (Tennessee’s) Ryan Fitzpatrick, of that group, released more than half of his passes in fewer than 2.5 seconds. So, yes, you’d be right that you’ve faced two far more quick-release offenses in the last two weeks.
“But this isn’t necessarily an adjustment just to neutralize the Chiefs’ pass rush. Manning — and the Broncos in particular — have been one of the quickest offenses in the league to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand all season; he has a 2.3 time to throw (on) average.”
And that trend line isn’t changing, either. Last week, Manning. This week, a Manning clone in Chargers signal-caller Philip Rivers.
In the fall of 2012, Rivers held the ball for an average of 2.79 seconds in the pocket, according to ProFootballFocus’ research. As of Nov. 8, Rivers’ “Time In Pocket” number was down to 2.52 seconds this year. San Diego coach Mike McCoy, no coincidence, was the offensive coordinator at Denver last season, and is credited with helping to get Rivers to emulate Manning, a quick-release master.
“He’s done a good job of getting the ball out of his hands faster, and getting his playmakers the ball,” Lewis said of Rivers, who leads the NFL in completion percentage (a gaudy 70.9). “And that’s why you see his success rate is going up.”
Meanwhile, his sack rate is going down. The Chargers have allowed just 19 takedowns and feature the fifth-lowest adjusted sack rate (5.7 percent) in the league, according to FootballOutsiders.com. (The NFL average is 7.2 percent; the Chiefs are at 8.1.)
“Watching on film, you can see he’s playing at his best,” Lewis said. “He’s not making the decisions he used to make — forcing his throws, trusting his arm and things like that. He’s at the top of his game.”
Which means if the Chiefs’ pass rush isn’t at the top of theirs, a problem officially becomes a crisis. With panic on deck, meltdown in the hole.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.