Chris Jones and the Kansas City Chiefs' defense have their groove back

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chris Jones didn't want to sound greedy. He wanted to be charitable to a teammate.

But on the Kansas City Chiefs' fifth and final sack of their 19-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Jones was forced to share with fellow defensive lineman Jarran Reed. They split the sack on the third-down play that effectively finished all doubt about the outcome, leaving Jones with 3.5 sacks instead of 4.

"I love Jarran but I think I had four tonight," Jones said jokingly. "If he earned it, I'm all for giving it to him. But I think I had four."

Regardless, it was still a career high for Jones. It was also a season high for the Chiefs, who entered Sunday with just 14 sacks in their first 10 games.

In addition to his sacks, Jones deflected a pass that went for an interception, forced a fumble and recovered one. His play and that of the defense has turned around the Chiefs' season.

A month ago the Chiefs were 3-4 and seemed headed for a lost season. They've won four straight games, including victories over division leaders in the Cowboys and Green Bay Packers and against a divisional opponent that was in first place at the time, the Las Vegas Raiders.

"I'm excited about it because we're still not playing our best football," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "We're sitting here at 7-4 and at least a half-game up on the AFC West. Everything is right in front of us. [From] where we started to where we are now and still not playing our best football, I'll take that every time.

"We're going to get better and better each and every week. We lost some games close early that we probably should have won if we had found ways to finish and then we took some big lumps and had some big losses that we don't usually have here. We kind of went back to the drawing board, went back to the fundamentals and ... we're sitting here now with everything in front of us."

If any part of the Chiefs' game best represents the team's change in fortunes, it's the pass rush. The Chiefs struggled to get much pressure on the opposing quarterback for the season's first seven games.

Things turned around during the Week 8 win over the New York Giants that began the winning streak. They weren't piling up the sacks but were getting after the quarterback better. The Chiefs in the first three games of the winning streak had three of their four best games in terms of pass rush win rate.

The sacks finally came in big numbers in Sunday's game.

The Chiefs acquired veteran defensive end Melvin Ingram three weeks ago, and though he doesn't have a sack, coach Andy Reid said his presence has triggered the pass rush.

"To get [Ingram] in there I think is a nice thing, a nice addition," Reid said. "He brings a certain energy to the group, a veteran player. All the guys respected him, welcomed him in. Not that he's playing every snap but he's playing quite a bit.

"It upped everybody's game."

The Chiefs can now line up a pass rush featuring four players who at one time in their careers had at least 10 sacks in a season: Jones, Reed, Ingram and Frank Clark.

Jones, who led the Chiefs in sacks each of the past three seasons and now has 6.5 in 2021, was playing with an injured wrist early in the season and later missed two games to let the injury heal. He said earlier in the season he probably wouldn't be at 100% for the rest of the year, but he looked like it on Sunday.

"It's never how you start," Jones said. "It's how you finish. This is a marathon. It's not a sprint and you're going to go through adversity along the way. We went through a little adversity and we had a lot of guys hurt. We're building this chemistry back on this defense getting everyone healthy."