The often electric play of the offense has been the key in just about every one of the Kansas City Chiefs’ victories this season, but as the Chiefs knocked off the Arizona Cardinals for their ninth win of the year on Sunday, this one was about the pass-rush.
The Chiefs pressured Cardinals’ quarterback Josh Rosen on a ridiculous 54.5 percent of his dropbacks in the contest, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which is the highest rate by a team in a single game this season.
From linebacker Justin Houston, who was playing in his first game in more than a month, to rookie linebacker Breeland Speaks, Kansas City was spending plenty of time in the backfield.
“The guys were getting off the ball,” said Head Coach Andy Reid. “Even when Justin [Houston] came out, you saw [Breeland Speaks] get a big hit on the quarterback. It didn’t matter necessarily who was out there, the guys had the snap count down and they were rolling.”
That pressure translated to five sacks - which matched the Chiefs’ season-high – with defensive end Chris Jones (2), linebacker Dee Ford (1), defensive end Allen Bailey (1) and safety Ron Parker (1) all getting to Rosen.
It marked a sixth-consecutive game with a sack for Jones, tying the second-longest streak in franchise history, as the third-year defensive lineman routinely created havoc in the Cardinals’ passing game.
“[I’m] just hitting the quarterback and affecting him in any type of way,” Jones said. “Helping the back-end guys out, we can affect the quarterback with tips and overthrows, because they can be incomplete passes or interceptions.”
Indeed, that persistent pressure led to two interceptions by the Chiefs’ defense, one of which was hauled in by Houston at the most opportune of times. With Kansas City leading by just six points in the fourth quarter, the veteran linebacker snagged Rosen’s pass out of the air and came down with it deep in Arizona territory.
The play titled the momentum of the game when the Chiefs needed it most.
“You could argue that he had the biggest play of the game right there,” Reid said. “I thought he did a heck of a job. It was great to get him back in there, both him and [safety Daniel Sorensen] out there and playing to get a little rust knocked off, and then to come through and make a huge play for us. I was proud of him for that.”
And while Houston didn’t record a sack on Sunday, his presence on the field was felt by the rest of the defense.
“[Having Houston back helped] a whole lot,” Ford said. “It’s just great to have him out there. That’s a brother of mine and a big mentor of mine. It’s just great for me, spiritually, to have him out there on the field. I definitely enjoy having his presence.”
Houston notched five of the Chiefs’ absurd 29 pressures on the afternoon, according to Pro Football Focus, and with the homestretch of the season coming into focus, the veteran linebacker is encouraged about what this defense can accomplish moving forward.
“We’re trying to turn this around and are trying to get this thing in the right direction because we’ve got goals,” Houston said. “As a whole, we know that if we want to win this whole thing, the defense has got to play better, week-in and week-out. I think [this is] a great start, we just have to continue to build on it.”
The Chiefs will look to do just that on Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City.