Chiefs Film Room: It’s Tamba Time!


Somewhere out there exists a parallel universe where Tamba Hali is not suiting up for Kansas City Chiefs in the 2015 season. Maybe this universe’s Tamba refused to take a pay cut, or maybe Dorsey believed it was Dee Ford time. Regardless of how it went down, I could not be happier our universe’s Tamba continues to call Arrowhead home on Sundays. 

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Seriously, does any one player encapsulate why we all love the Chiefs better than Tamba? He has a motor that never quits, he worked tirelessly to become a top-tier pass rusher, and he believes in this team so much he took a paycut to stay! Oh, did I mention he even has his own record label? I mean, it’s impossible not to love having this guy on our team.

In what was supposed to be season where Hali simply held down the fort until Dee Ford was ready, Hali has flipped the script and played at a Pro Bowl level. His 6.5 sacks already eclipse his total from last season, and he currently has 49 quarterback pressures, good for seventh in the league! Not too shabby. But don’t mistake him for a one-trick pony, because Tamba has become one heck of a run-stuffer.

This play is on a third and one in the second quarter, and inexplicably the Chargers assign their tight end to handle Hali on this play (on the right side of the upright). When the ball is snapped, Hali immediately reads the play and knifes through the offensive line before the poor tight end can even get a hand on him. Not only that, but his tackle is picture-perfect and prevents the running back from gaining an inch, let alone the yard needed.

Hali single-handedly blowing up runs is something I’ve come to expect of him on a weekly basis, and that wasn’t the only time he delivered against the Chargers:

While the first run stuff happened because Hali was able to read and react almost the instant the ball was snapped, this one is a classic Hali play. Everybody knows Hali has a relentless motor, and that motor is exactly why he made this stop.

At the snap, the tackle chips Hali, which allows the tight end to get a pretty decent block in. But a measly block isn’t enough to stop Hali. Check out how he keeps his feet churning down the line of scrimmage and drags his blocker towards the running back. Not many 32-year old outside linebackers are making that play, but that’s exactly the kind of thing we’ve grown accustomed to seeing out of number 91 over this past decade.

When it comes to the passing game, it’s common knowledge that Hali’s pass rush makes things uncomfortable for opposing QBs on a regular basis. But in Sutton’s defense, all four linebacker spots are asked to drop into coverage at some point, and Hali has shown some nice ability in this area.

Here, Hali is matched up one-on-one with the tight end on a play-action pass. The Chiefs are playing man coverage across the board so Hali is on an island, so to speak.

I love what Hali does here, he gets his hands on the receiver within five yards of the line (you keep that flag in your pocket, ref). That slows the tight end down and makes it much easier for Hali to maintain good positioning while turning upfield.

From the All-22 angle, we see Hali is draped all over the receiver and there is absolutely no room for Rivers to fit the ball in. Combine this with the fact that every other receiver is blanketed as well by the Chiefs, and you get a Phillip Rivers throwaway. Opponents will look to take advantage of great pass rushers by exposing their subpar coverage skills, but it’s comforting to see that when called upon, Hali can hold is own out there.

Now, Hali was unable to record a sack against the Chargers, however his presence still had quite the impact.

This was Dee Ford’s first sack of the game and it came at the end of the third quarter with the Chargers’ backup left tackle in. There’s a reason I bring up the backup left tackle, and it’s not to slight Ford.

On the left, you have Hali going up against Joe Barksdale, who has had a pretty solid game up to that point and is PFF’s 14th-highest rated offensive tackle. On the right, you have Ford going up against the aforementioned backup tackle, Chris Hairston, PFF’s 34th-rated tackle. Look which side the running back is providing help on. It won’t show up on the stat sheet, but the threat of Hali alone was a big reason why Ford was in a position to shine last Sunday.

To say Tamba has played a large part in the Chiefs’ turnaround would be selling short exactly how much he means to this team. His ability to thrive in every aspect on defense, along with his steady veteran leadership, have been invaluable in getting the Chiefs to the point where they control their own fate. It’s sobering to think that we are approaching what could very well be the last few games of the Tamba era in Kansas City. But to his credit, the man is providing us with a ton of #TAMBATIME moments this season, so we best savor them while we can.

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That’s our quarterback!