Dee Ford on the Chiefs Defense: "When We're Us, We're Unstoppable"

Ford believes last Sunday’s success is just the beginning

He's lined up in his usual two-point stance out wide of the tackle, standing across from a monster that on this particular day has five inches and 80 pounds on him.

As soon as Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford explodes off the line of scrimmage and gets near the point of first impact, he bench presses the Oakland Raiders right tackle, creating a foot of space between the two, and that's all he'd need to flash inside and "affect" the play.

It was the first play of the Raiders second offensive possession last Sunday, and on the first possession, they moved the ball at will—marching 46 yards on seven plays and getting into the end zone in just three minutes.

Already with an early 7-0 lead, the Raiders were looking to quickly add even more on their next possession, but Ford and company had other plans.

As soon as Ford flashed inside, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who had been looking to the other side of the field, saw Ford get inside leverage and had a straight path to him, so he quickly left the pocket and attempted an off-balance deep throw down the right sideline with defensive lineman Allen Bailey bearing down on him as well.

The play resulted in second-year cornerback Marcus Peters making an interception right in front of the Raiders bench.

It's a play that will be on Peters' highlight film this year, and the box score after the game reflected Peters' play, but not Ford's.

Conventional stats won't reflect Ford's ability to "affect" the play by getting the quarterback off his spot, but the truth is Peters doesn't make that interception without Ford doing his job up front.

"Those are the most frequent type of rushes you're going to have," Ford explained. "If you can get the quarterback off his spot, he's uncomfortable. It doesn't even have to be a pretty rush. I know everybody wants to see the pretty rush where we just destroy the tackle, but if you can just get the quarterback off that spot—that's like 80 percent of your rushes in the game.

"Those are the hard rushes, and any quarterback that's affected isn't so great."

Baseball is often considered a sport about dealing with failure, the old adage that, "If you fail seven times of out 10 as a hitter, you're hitting .300 and will make the Hall of Fame."

Well, for pass rushers, the success rate is even lower. It's even harder.

The NFL's all-time leader in sacks, former Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins defensive lineman Bruce Smith, finished his 19-year NFL career with a total of 200 sacks in 279 career games.

If Smith averaged around 60 plays or so per game on defense, that'd average out to one sack per 83.7 snaps, or less than 2 percent of the time.

While players can get credit for half-sacks and such, not to mention that roughly half of these snaps are against running plays, the numbers still range out to a substantially low percentage of plays that result in sacks from even the best to ever do it.

If a pass rusher "gets home" for a sack on even 3 percent of his total snaps, he's likely to be one of the best in the league.

In 2014, Justin Houston finished one sack shy of the NFL's single season record (Michael Strahan, 22.5), and he did that by playing 1,033 defensive snaps, which means it was barely 2 percent of his snaps that resulted in a sack statistic—maybe a bit more with half-sacks and such.

But the ability to fail and keep coming is what separates the bad from the average, the average from the good, and the good from the great.

This trait was on display from Ford late in the game against the Raiders, when he made another game-changing play, but unlike the one that Peters' intercepted, this one showed up in a box score.

"He didn't really beat the guy, but he kept working the guy and all of a sudden [Carr] steps up, Ford chases him down and makes the play," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of Ford's key strip-sack late in the game. "His second sack (which came a bit later), [Ford] was off the back side. The quarterback pushed out away from him and he still made the play.

"If you're not relentless there, you don't get either of those sacks. It just doesn't happen. That's why it's the number one attribute most of the great rushers have."

Ford said his teammates were encouraging him early in that game to just keep coming.

"I remember Marcus (Peters), Eric (Berry), Ron (Parker), the whole secondary, they were talking to me like, 'Look, they can't block you for four quarters. They can't block our D-line or outside backers for four quarters. Keep going and the sacks will come. Everybody back here is going to cover their end and (the quarterback) is going to hold the rock.'

"It's crazy how much it did pan out like we wanted it to," he added.


Ford, who finished the game with five tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble, said that even though it's always the goal, sacks aren't always expected.

"When you get a sack, you're kind of shocked because you're rushing so much and then you finally get there—you don't know what to do," he explained. "You've got to think, two games I didn't even get there, and that's probably 60 or 70 times I rushed the quarterback and on that 100th time (last week), I got there.

"If we can get there in 2.5 seconds, that's a sack every time. So that's my mindset every play. If I can get there in two and a half, that's magic."

Ford has 3.5 sacks through five games this season, which means he's just one sack shy of breaking his personal best of four sacks all of last season.

He's always had a nice first step—that's the first thing that will always be used to describe his skill set, but he's worked hard over the past couple of years to add to his repertoire.

"That's always a challenge," Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained this week. "Normally when a college kid comes in he has one move and 90 percent of the lineman he's playing against aren't the quality that he's going to play against (in the NFL). Once you get to this level, you have to be able to throw different pitches at an offensive lineman.

"[Ford] has been doing that over time here, so now he has a combination of things he can do."

Photo Highlights of Dee Ford

Overall, Ford and company put together a nice performance on the road last week against one of the NFL's top offenses in the Raiders, who ranked in the top 10 in both yards and points before that game.

"When we're us, we're unstoppable," Ford added. "That was the key during the week—that's what we said. We're focusing on us."

With the news of four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Justin Houston returning to practice this week, combined with the recent production and his ability to "affect" plays in critical moments, Ford said the defense has its arrow pointed up.

"It's going to mean a lot," Ford explained of Houston's eventual return. "If you're looking around at this modern day football, the more pass rushers you have the better off you are. He's a GOAT ("Greatest of All-Time"), and that's scary for teams.

"Once he comes back, I'm at this point and feel like I'm playing my best ball, it's going to get better each week. It's going to be a lot of fun."

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