No team has been better this season at getting to the quarterback than the Kansas City Chiefs. Only one team has been worse at protecting the quarterback and getting rid of the ball than the Browns.
For the latter, a trip to Arrowhead Stadium isn’t ideal.
The Chiefs are an NFL-best 7-0, have allowed the league’s fewest points thus far (81) and have the most sacks of any team with 35. It’s not even close, either — the Baltimore Ravens are second in the league but are 10 sacks behind the Chiefs with 25.
At this pace, the Chiefs would end the 2013 season with 80 sacks, breaking the single-season team record of 72 set by the 1984 Chicago Bears.
That, along with the raucous crowd at Arrowhead Stadium, is what Jason Campbell faces in his first start with the Browns.
“They’re tough,” Campbell said last week. “They do a good job on their edge rushing. I think their corners and safeties all do a good job in coverage. They make you work the ball. As an offense for us, we just have to go in there and do what we do and try to be as patient as possible and keep ourselves in good positions to win.”
The Chiefs’ pass rush is led by outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, who have combined to make three trips to the Pro Bowl between them and rank No. 2 (Houston, 10 sacks) and No. 4 (Hali, 9 sacks) in the NFL. Also in the front seven is two-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and nose tackle Dontari Poe, who is having a standout sophomore season.
Campbell has played the Chiefs three times in his career, the past two with the Oakland Raiders in 2010, and he knows this pass rush all too well. In both of those games, the Chiefs sacked Campbell four times (in the most recent game, Hali got to Campbell 2.5 times himself). But both times, Campbell came away with the victory.
“What’s happened in the past, it was great I was able to get to him but the bigger, grand-schemes thing is to get a win,” Hali said Wednesday. “We just want to come in this game and be able to affect the quarterback and do things like that, cause turnovers. We don’t want to live in the past anymore. Hopefully, we can get that done here.”
The Chiefs, playing at home, beat the Houston Texans 17-16 last week. They had five sacks as a team, and it was the second week in a row Hali finished the game with 2.5 sacks. It isn’t good news for the Browns, who have allowed 27 sacks this season, a mark that ranks only better than the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 28.
All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas knows the kind of challenge that Houston and Hali, along with the probable inability to hear the snap count, will provide today.
“It always makes it more difficult when you can’t communicate because of how loud it is,” said Thomas, who Hali called the best tackle in the league. “It’s a great challenge. There are no secrets. When it’s loud and they’ve got good pass rushers, it’s tough. ... You’ve got to be tuned in to what the snap count is. If it’s on a regular cadence out of the quarterback’s mouth, [you] gotta be able to key the center and know what the snap count is.”
Hali credited the Chiefs’ pass-rushing success to new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, who worked under New York Jets coach Rex Ryan — the brother of former Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan — for four years. Many of the same principles have been applied to Kansas City’s defense.
Thomas said new pressures are added each offseason, or at least, “That’s what they tell us.” But many teams running the 3-4 defense have similar design aspects.
“There are a lot of teams that do what the chiefs do,” Thomas said.
But at the moment, no one is doing it better.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/brownss. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.