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Bills vs. Chiefs: Buffalo Must Contain Tamba Hali

KANSAS CITY MO - SEPTEMBER 26: Tamba Hali #91 of the Kansas City Chiefs sacks Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium on September 26 2010 in Kansas City Missouri. The Chiefs won 31-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY MO - SEPTEMBER 26: Tamba Hali #91 of the Kansas City Chiefs sacks Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium on September 26 2010 in Kansas City Missouri. The Chiefs won 31-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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During their 4-2 start, the Kansas City Chiefs have showed off an improved defense that, while middle-of-the-pack in terms of yards allowed per game, is currently the seventh-best scoring outfit in the league, giving up an average of just 18.7 points per game. Coupled with a tough, fundamental mentality and the league's best rushing attack, the Chiefs have quickly taken control of the AFC West.

The Chiefs have the NFL's sixth-best run defense, allowing opponents to run for just 89.7 yards per game this season. That's just about half of the yardage that Buffalo's league-worst run defense allows. One area where the Chiefs struggle defensively, however, is rushing the passer - and that's despite having one of the league's best pass rushers on the roster.

Kansas City has amassed 11 quarterback sacks through six games - just three more than the Buffalo Bills' eight, for a little perspective. Sacks don't tell the whole story, clearly, which helps explain why Tamba Hali is so revered around the league. His 5.5 sacks rate him No. 12 in the NFL this season, but it's his ability to create pressure, alter throws, and affect protection schemes that makes him such a valuable asset for a Chiefs defense that doesn't have much beyond him in the pass rush department.

I asked Joel Thorman of Arrowhead Pride about Hali and the Chiefs' pass rush in general, and his assessment was a simple one: stop Hali, and you've stopped the Chiefs' pass rush.

I specifically inquired about Hali's seeming lack of consistency, as he has been held without a stat in two games this season, while recording at least a half-sack in every other game. Is consistency an issue with Hali?

"Not really," said Thorman. "It's more of the focus the offense puts on him. Each week we hear from the opposing head coach and quarterback and you get the similar messages: 'No. 91 on defense pops out at me,' or 'We gotta keep an eye on Tamba Hali.' If you're to believe some of Football Outsiders' stats, Hali is one of the best in the league at creating 'quarterback incidents' - basically getting in the QB's face via a sack, hurry, or knockdown.

"The Bills offense will have to focus on Hali because he's the only consistent pass rush the Chiefs have. He's shown the ability to go off at times - he had three sacks against San Francisco this year - if you don't give him enough attention. The dip in production is, in my opinion, more of a reflection on the rest of the pass rush than Hali. You can focus on him, stop him, and then you've stopped the Chiefs pass rush."