How did Kansas City go from one of the league's worst pass-rushing teams to one of its best? A few reasons, but the results are showing up in our Pressure Points rankings

By Greg A. Bedard
September 26, 2013

Justin Houston set a career-high with 10 sacks last year. Through three weeks, he has 7.5. (Elsa/Getty Images) Justin Houston set a career-high with 10 sacks last year. Through three weeks, he has 7.5. (Elsa/Getty Images)

The Chiefs finished the 2012 ranked 29th in the league with 27 sacks. Through three games this season, they are first with 15.

They were dead last with a 99.8 defensive passer rating. Now, Kansas City is third at 63.1.

Why the big change? Like anything else, it’s complicated. It hasn’t hurt that in addition to playing the Cowboys, the Chiefs have faced the struggling Jaguars and Eagles. Three games are a very small sample size, and things most certainly will change over the course of the season.

Free agent additions Mike Devito (tackle), Sean Smith (cornerback) and Quintin Demps (safety) have shored up an otherwise talented unit, and new coordinator Bob Sutton, who learned a lot under Rex Ryan with the Jets, has put it all together.

“I'd say it's a team effort; it starts at the front and works its way to the back,” Houston said Thursday. “We're getting great coverage down the field, everybody's on the same page so we make sure no coverage has been blown. The big guys are pushing the pocket, I've got Tamba Hali on the other side of me, (Dontari) Poe's doing a good job this year. So when you have everybody on the same page, and everybody's doing their job, rushing the quarterback is easy to do.”

Individually, look no further than the inside-outside combination of Poe, the nose tackle, and Houston and Hali at outside linebacker. They’ve been among the league’s best at their spots.

Hali illustrates why came up with an all-encompassing pass-rushing statistic—Pressure Points. Hali has just one sack on the season, but his 16 quarterback hurries and two hits put him 10th in the season-long Pressure Points.

For Houston and Poe, their performances in Week 3 against the Eagles earned them two of our pressure awards:

Top edge rusher of Week 3: Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs.

Unsung interior rusher of Week 3: Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs.

Garnering 4.5 sacks is impressive, but because of the circumstances of each sack, Houston wasn’t a run-away winner of his award. Greg Hardy of the Panthers (three sacks, two sack assists) and Hali (sack, eight hurries) were not far behind. None of Houston’s sacks was an unassisted. Houston’s first three sacks were at least partially caused by Poe’s actions, which earned him three sack assists. As you see in the pictures below, Poe (yellow circles) initially was in Michael Vick’s face before Houston cleaned up for the sack. On the second, the double team that Poe drew allowed Houston (red circles) to be one-on-one against rookie right tackle Lane Johnson.


“He's played a major role,” Houston said of Poe. “Any time you can get a big guy up there to push the center back into the quarterback's face and not allow the quarterback to step up, it's a whole lot easier to bring pressure off the edge. It’s very important that he get credit because he deserves it. Without him, I wouldn’t have gotten at least a couple of those sacks.”

While we're on the subject of the Chiefs' turnaround getting to the quarterback, let's look at our updated team rankings. First, our Week 3 team rankings:



And now the total team rankings:



And our offensive line rankings:


Unsung edge rusher of Week 3: Antwan Barnes, New York Jets.

Barnes didn’t have a sack against the Bills, but he did his job creating pressure with a sack assist (pictures below: made E.J. Manuel move off his spot which led to a Calvin Pace sack), drawn hold, three hurries and three hits.

“I was just trying to do what I’m supposed to do every play: get off the ball and beat the guy,” Barnes said. “Fortunately he stepped up and Calvin got the sack. As long as somebody gets the sack, I’m good. Of course, I wanted it because that’s what I was brought here to do. But the quarterback gets down and we get off the field, it don’t matter.”

With two minutes remaining and the Bills trailing 27-20 and facing 3rd-and-14, Barnes dipped under Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn, who tackled Barnes for a holding penalty that brought up 3rd-and-24. The Jets got the ball back on downs.

“It was just a little dip move,” Barnes said. “It’s a little like something Dwight Freeney likes to do.”


Here are our Week 3 edge rusher rankings:



And our total edge rusher rankings:


Top interior pass rusher of Week 3: Darnell Dockett, Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals got pushed around by the Saints 31-7 on Sunday, but it could have been worse without the work of Dockett. His three sacks, three hurries and one hit gave him 5.8 Pressure Points—the most for any interior rusher so far this season. Dockett had one Pressure Point the first two weeks, but he now ranks 10th in interior rushers for the season. He’s been a lone bright spot for the Cardinals, who are 24th in the league in Pressure Points per snap.

Our Week 3 interior rusher rankings:



And our total interior rusher rankings:


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