For the over-30 crowd of Kansas City Chiefs fans, the 2013 season seems sort of familiar. An offense hovering around mediocrity combined with a ridiculously good defense pretty much defines the Chiefs in the 90s. The most enjoyable part of watching those teams was seeing the terrorized opposing quarterbacks trying to run from Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith.
Thomas and Smith are one of the greatest pass-rush tandems of all time. They played eight seasons together in Kansas City from 1989-96 and put together some astounding numbers. In that time, Thomas racked up 98 sacks, 15 forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries. Smith compiled 83 sacks, 15 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries. Together, they averaged 25.9 sacks per season with an impressive high of 29.5 in 1990.
This season, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are doing a great impression of the Thomas-Smith tandem. Though Smith was a defensive end and Hali and Houston are both linebackers, the chaos behind the line of scrimmage looks the same. Through seven games, Hali and Houston are on pace to record 43 sacks this season, which is more than 26 entire teams could muster in 2012.
Hali and Houston are on their way to top Thomas and Smith’s best single season, but they need a few more good years together before they’re considered on the same level as the NFL legends. In almost two and a half seasons together, Hali and Houston have combined for 55.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
If you stretch that out over eight seasons, they would have 182 sacks, 39 forced fumbles and 13 recoveries. That is very comparable to Thomas and Smith’s eight years in KC in which they combined for 181 sacks, 30 forced fumbles and 22 recoveries.
The current guys have some work to do before they catch up, and it could be pretty tough to keep their pace as Hali isn’t getting any younger. But on the other hand, Houston has really exploded in his third season and if he keeps this play up, the sky’s the limit.
Whether they can keep up their insane level of play or not, Kansas City fans are loving the show while it’s here. For the older fans, the 2013 Chiefs season is like watching a remake of a classic movie, but this version could turn out to have a better ending.