It’s bulls and blood, it’s dust and mud, it’s the roar of a Sunday crowd.
It’s the white in the knuckles, the gold in the buckle he will win the next go ‘round.
-- Garth Brooks, Rodeo
Former Buffalo Bull, Khalil Mack, took to the field in Oakland in front of a roaring Sunday crowd. And just like he did the last go ‘round against the Broncos, he broke the beast.
He was an unstoppable, unshakable force, putting up 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble against the 6-2 Broncos to knock them from their tie atop the AFC West. Last season Mack put up 5.0 sacks and a forced fumble against the Broncos.
In both cases, he put up all his sacks in the second half.
When he had his 5.0 sacks last season brought him to 14.0 sacks on the season and ultimately represented a third of his season total (15.0). His 2.0 sacks in this game brought Mack to 7.0 on the season.
It’s also Mack’s second-straight game with 2.0 sacks, putting him ahead of last season’s pace that had him at 5.0 sacks after 9 games.
He took us through those two sacks.
“I was getting overstepped on the backside and came underneath on the lineman to the inside,” Mack said of his first sack. “On the next one, I stabbed inside because I knew he was going to bite on it, and then came outside and tried to get the ball out.”
Sacks are flashy and look great in a stat line. But Mack did more than sack the quarterback in the past two meetings against the Broncos. As Pro Football Focus pointed out today:
In his two most recent games against Denver, Mack has racked up an impressive seven sacks, two hits, 10 hurries, and nine defensive stops. He rushed the passer 86 times over those two games, meaning he got pressure once every 4.5 pass-rushes, and that doesn’t even include plays where he beat his man, but the ball came out before it could develop into a pressure.
On Sunday night, Mack beat Broncos RT Donald Stephenson alone 13 times in pass protection. Stephenson was only pass blocking 42 times in the game, and two-thirds of those plays saw the ball come out in 2.5 seconds or less. Essentially, he was a glorified traffic cone that Mack simply had to navigate around before closing on the QB for pressure.
The result from PFF’s figures was one of their best grades for any player all season. Mack was given a grade of 98.3 (out of 100). That’s pretty good.
Mack’s just a second half kind of guy, I guess.
If that’s the case, his resurgence got an early start this season, because it began last week with his near flawless performance against the Buccaneers which helped keep the Raiders in the game despite an NFL record 23 penalties.
After a slow start that saw Mack post just one sack over the first five games, he has now posted at least one sack in four straight games. If he continues on the pace he has set over the past four weeks, he would finish the season with 18.5 sacks – once sack ahead of 2015 Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt.