Everyone needs to mark Sunday's date in their calendar. You'll want to remember the day that Justin Houston announced himself to the rest of the NFL. The second-year player from Georgia came up big at the biggest time for the Kansas City Chiefs in their 27-24 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
At a time in which the Kansas City Chiefs had just one sack in their first two games of the season, both losses, Houston comes up big with three crucial sacks of Drew Brees and the Saints offense. Houston made things uncomfortable for Brees all day long and wreaked havoc on the former Super Bowl MVP. One of those sacks resulted in a safety that brought the Chiefs to within a field goal with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
Houston has developed a knack for coming up big on the road.
In Houston's last eight games he's amassed 9.5 sacks, and even more impressive than that is 8.5 of those sacks have come on the road. The only sack that wasn't on the road was two weeks ago against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.
We heard on draft day a few years ago that getting Houston in the third round was an absolute steal and that he was a first-round talent. The Chiefs acquired the pick they used on Houston by trading down in the first round with the Cleveland Browns, who took former Baylor nose tackle, Phil Taylor. The Chiefs picked up an extra third-round pick and used the first-round pick on wide receiver Jon Baldwin. The combination of Baldwin and Houston looks to be one of the best moves Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli has made during his tenure in Kansas City.
Even if you're down on Baldwin right now as a first-round pick, just switch them and you'll feel better. Just imagine they used the first-round pick on Houston and the third-round pick on Baldwin, BOOM! Happy.
In all seriousness, the Chiefs may have a superstar in the making on their hands. It's fair to say because it's not like Houston hasn't played well and just had a fluke of a game out of nowhere. Extrapolate his last eight games and 9.5 sacks to a whole season and you're looking at the No. 3 pass-rusher in the entire NFL based on 2011's totals. Jared Allen led the league with 22 sacks and DeMarcus Ware followed him with 19.5, Houston would be sitting right there with 19.
It's also not just a matter of Houston coming up big from a statistical standpoint. His timing couldn't have been better. As much as the third game of the NFL season can be a 'must win' for any NFL team, this was a must-win for the Chiefs. Heading into a divisional game against the San Diego Chargers with a 0-3 record with question marks everywhere and things would have looked pretty bleak for the Chiefs. There are still some question marks about this team but Houston has become an answer for a few of those questions we had before the Saints game.
We can't be too surprised on the timing of Houston coming up big because we saw it last year too. The Chiefs had dropped four straight in the month of November and sat with a 4-7 record as they prepared to take on the Chicago Bears. With any post-season hopes on the brink of going down the tubes Houston breaks through with three sacks to help lead the Chiefs to the 10-3 victory in Chicago.
The difference this year was he was taking down Drew Brees and not Caleb Hanie, and he was fighting through a tough Saints offensive line that had given up just three sacks all season, not a Bears offensive line that had given up an average of over three sacks per game in 2011. That's why this was his coming out party, not that game last year. This was bigger, this meant more, and this people will remember more.
Congrats Justin Houston, or I should say, Mr. Houston. You've announced your presence with authority to the NFL and endeared yourself to a fan base that knows a little something about celebrating pass rushers, and you did both at the same time. Well played sir, well played.