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Khalil Mack leads Raiders pass rush on historic pace

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Lately it has seemed like the Raiders have been getting to the quarterback a lot. More than I can remember happening at any point in the recent past. So, I crunched some numbers and what I found not only confirmed my suspicions but was rather surprising.

The Raiders head into week 16 against the Chiefs with Khalil Mack one sack away from tying a franchise record. He currently has 15.0 sacks, which leads the NFL. One more would tie him with Derrick Burgess (16.0 sacks in 2005) for the most in a single season in Raiders history.

"That'd be huge," Ken Norton Jr said of Mack tying or breaking the record. "Where he came from as far as this point in his career, his improvement and I think the way the guys are getting better around him are certainly making him better. As the team gets better, our individual players are getting better and I think they are all working together."

"That's a testament to what Khalil is doing and again what the guys around him are doing. He wouldn't be able to be the player he is if the guys around him weren't better. It's easy to double him and then no one else is able to get pressure, but the whole group has been really coming on. Those guys across the line from the young guys to the guys who are continuing to improve to the coach to the coverage, it's all combined. It's just not one person. It's the group of guys working together collectively, making each other better."

Right now the Raiders as a team have 37 sacks. That number alone doesn't look spectacular. Until you look closer.

Most of those 37 sacks have occurred in the second half of this season. They have 22 sacks in the past seven games. They are improving. What may be more astounding is they have been doing it with several of their top pass rushers going down.

Justin Tuck was lost to a torn pectoral muscle in week five and placed on injured reserve. Aldon Smith was suspended at midseason for a DUI arrest in the offseason.

Amazingly, it was after Smith was suspended that the Raiders pass rush took off.

Since then they have averaged over three sacks per game including Mack's 5 sack performance in the week 14 win over the Broncos.

Had the Raiders been sacking the quarterback at this rate all season, they would finish the season with over 50 sacks for the franchise's third time since sacks became an official stat in 1982. The last time a Raiders team had over 50 sacks was 1986 when their 63 sacks led the NFL.

That 1986 team had defenders the likes of Howie Long, Sean Jones, Greg Townsend, Bill Pickel, Rod Martin, Jerry Robinson, Matt Millen and a second year linebacker by the name of Reggie McKenzie.

The Raiders pass rush over their current dominant streak is, of course, led by Khalil Mack. Also contributing have been Malcolm Smith (4.0), Denico Autry (3.0), Mario Edwards Jr (2.5), Ben Heeney (2.5), and Benson Mayowa (1.0). Not exactly household names.

What is interesting is of those guys listed, only Smith is over 25 years of age (26) which means most of them haven't played their best football yet.

Outside of Mario Edwards, who is lost for the season with a neck injury, these guys will have one final game this season to stay on pace. Should they do so, they will finish the season with at least 40 sacks for just the second time since the Raiders 2002 Super Bowl season. The other season was 2010 when they posted 47 sacks.

For what it's worth, the last time the Raiders faced the Chiefs in week 13, they posted 4 sacks. Should they do it again, they would finish with 41 sacks - nearly doubling last year's season total (22). Even now, they already have their largest jump in sack numbers from one full season to the next (15) in the official sack era.