KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With a comfortable fourth-quarter lead on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs pulled from the lineup several of their best defensive players, including pass-rushing linebacker Justin Houston. But Houston, who already had a couple of sacks, soon had to re-enter the game after backup Josh Martin strained his hamstring.
Houston wasn't complaining.
"Oh, yeah," Houston said after the Chiefs completed their 34-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams, smiling at the thought. "For a sack guy or any guy that loves to put pressure on the quarterback, six minutes left in the game when you're [leading] big like that, we know what time it is. It's time to pin your ears back and go. Every time you can put pressure on them in that situation, that's fun."
Houston, in the extra time necessitated by Martin's injury, had one more sack of Rams quarterback Austin Davis. His three sacks put him in the NFL lead with 10 and leave him halfway to Derrick Thomas' team record of 20 set in 1990.
Before giving Houston the regular-season sack title or the Chiefs' single-season record, recall that Houston was on a similarly torrid pace last season. He had 11 sacks through eight games, making him a legitimate threat for both standards.
He didn't get another sack the rest of the season, in large part because he missed five games because of a dislocated elbow.
Whether Houston winds up leading the NFL or setting the franchise record, he's already established himself as one of the league's premier pass rushers. He has 21 sacks in his last 18 games.
That kind of pace, assuming he stays healthy, will win plenty of individual honors. More importantly, it will guarantee that the Chiefs will continue to have one of the league's best pass defenses. They were second in the league heading into Sunday's game and didn't hurt themselves against the Rams.
They allowed a 43-yard pass from Davis to Kenny Britt on St. Louis' first drive of the game and then nothing more than 20 yards. They had seven sacks and yielded just 116 net passing yards.
It should go without saying the Chiefs wouldn't have any of these glossy stats without the help of Houston.
"My goal is to get as many sacks as I can every game," Houston said. "That's my job. Every time I can put pressure on the quarterback, that's a plus."