Last month, I called Tamba Hali the Chiefs MVP with a little hesitation. Despite being a fan favorite, he's still been taken for granted. After all, Justin Houston is the big-ticket pass rusher, Hali is "just" his hard-working sidekick. And before Houston, it was Jared Allen.
We've written Tamba Hali off many times. When the Chiefs moved to the 3-4 defense, there were major questions whether Tamba had the athletic ability to make the switch. Before that, we wondered if Hali would ever be able to defend the run or contain the edge. This year, it was supposed to be Dee Ford's time. Hali was too expensive, he was going to be a cap casualty. The consummate team player, Hali reworked his contract prior to the season in order to remain a Chief for his career. Now we have to at least wonder if the Chiefs and Tamba's camp will go back to the drawing board after this season.
All the guy does is work. Every week, every play, he gives absolutely everything he has. He's made game-changing sacks like this one in multiple games this year.
He consistently disrupts opposing QBs even when he's not getting the sack. His pregame warm-up is more strenuous than most of our weekly activity combined. He spends time after practice and throughout camp working on hand technique and sharing his knowledge with his teammates. He plays hurt, rarely comes off the field, and can be seen enthusiastically cheering for the offense instead of resting when on the sideline.
"Part of my job is to hustle,'' he said. "It didn't come naturally to me. Some guys are naturally strong or just flat-out fast. The game I play, it has to do with longevity, the toughness of the man and enduring the pain and everything, going through all the aches and still being accountable, available.
"That means a lot to me -- more than just having raw talent. Guys who are talented but don't work at it, it's just for a flash, and then they're gone. You have to have talent, but you have to work and work tirelessly until it becomes second nature to you.''
Hali is flat-out getting it done on the field in 2015. Pro Football Focus has ranked Hali in their top 10 pass rushers this season with two of his top performances coming in the last two weeks.
OLB Tamba Hali earned season-best grades in both run defense (+2.0) and pass rushing (+5.0, 7 total pressures)
With Justin Houston (+0.8) going down due to an injury, the Chiefs needed somebody to step up in order to replace the production of the 2014 All-Pro player. It was no surprise that Tamba Hali (+3.8) took on his role and was an even more dangerous edge rusher than usual. Hali had success on both sides of the field against both tackles of the Bills as he recorded a sack, a quarterback hit and six quarterback hurries. Although Hali missed two tackles and struggled against the run, due to his work in rushing the passer, he was still the best player on the field yesterday.
I wasn't sure how much we'd get from Tamba Hali this season. Now, I'm not sure how we could expect anything more from any one player ... and I don't want it to end.