A few weeks back in my column awarding Khalil Mack my Hoss of the Week for Week 9, I talked about how Mack had started the season off a little slow in the sacks department but that he appeared to be hitting his stride. Well after his performance the last few weeks, I think it's safe to say *NBA Jam voice* HE'S ON FIRE!!!
Just a week ago, Mack had a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, interception, and scored a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers, a feat that hadn't been accomplished by anybody since future Hall of Fame safety Charles Woodson did it in 2009. Mack also notched at least one sack in each of the seven games before this past Sunday.
Oh and after getting a sack, forcing a fumble, and recovering it on the same play at the end of the Panthers game a week ago to seal the win, he fucked around and did it again against Buffalo on Sunday.
Safe to say this dude has been eating his friggin' Wheaties.
Against Buffalo this past weekend Mack absolutely owned the fourth quarter.
The sack/caused fumble/fumble recovery at the end was awesome, no doubt, but it was the culmination of him getting closer and closer and closer to taking down Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor the previous three drives. Those plays were important because they ended those drives by either forcing a punt or, in one case, helping to force a turnover.
Let's look at the first play of the fourth quarter, a third-and-15 for Buffalo from their own 20-yard line. Mack lined up at his usual left defensive end spot and came off like he was going to speed rush around the edge. He looked like a silver and black Lambo on his first two steps, and forced Bills right tackle Jordan Mills to bail hard AF out of his stance to try to keep up. Just as quickly, Mack stuck his foot in the ground and shot inside like he was doing a crossover move.
The suddenness of Mack's move was too much for Mills, who tried to lunge back inside to left block but had his feet stuck in quicksand. If it wasn't for the right guard John Miller stepping out to help, Mack might have knocked Taylor out.
Miller slowed up Mack just enough to allow Taylor to get the pass off before Mack could get all the way to Taylor. But Taylor saw Mack coming and sped up his delivery, throwing off target for wide receiver Sammy Watkins and allowing cornerback David Amerson to knock it down.
On the very next drive Mack showed up big on third down again. The Bills were facing a third-and-8 from their own 27-yard line with 13:25 left in the game. Mack, who had been giving Mills all kinds of power moves all day long, decided to mix in a quick long arm power move this time. He put his right hand right in Mill's chest and basically stiff armed him back into Taylor's lap. Mills recovered enough to sit down on the move but he had already given so much ground that Mack was literally within arm's reach of the quarterback.
Mark reached out with his left hand and was able to make contact with Taylor's arm just as he was unloading the football. The ball fluttered harmlessly to the ground about 10 yards in front of its intended recipient, tight end Nick O'Leary, who appeared to have a sliver of separation from linebacker Malcolm Smith on an out route.
Every time you can force a team to punt in the fourth quarter is a big deal. In a close game those kinds of plays may go under the radar but they are huge plays nonetheless.
Mack didn't even wait until third down to get busy on the next drive.
On the very first play of the drive with the Bills backed up at their own 4-yard line, Mack came off and -- well, I guess the appropriate description is "mugged" Mills with another power move. I say "mugged" because it wasn't a bull rush as much it was Mack, like, refusing to let the dude block him on that play. I mean the hand placement wasn't great, and he didn't really explode into Mills this time, but Mack just pushed and pushed until he broke Mills down.
Mills tried to sit down on the move but Mack basically forced him to turn his outside shoulder and give him a "soft" corner. Mack simply stepped wide and continued on past Mills who was planted in the ground like a palm tree. Mack was able to get to Taylor so fast that he hit Taylor's hand as he tried to deliver the football down field, forcing the ball up in the air and giving safety Nate Allen easy pickings.
Mind you, the Raiders led 30-24 before that interception, and the Bills had a 15-point lead until Oakland scored a touchdown with 5:22 left in the third quarter. Things went left in a hurry for Buffalo and Mack was a big part of that.
Now after all that the Bills finally got a drive going and made their way down to the Raiders' 17-yard line. If Buffalo scores a touchdown, the lead would likely fall to seven, making things miiiiighty interesting with three minutes to go.
Mack wasn't interested in any late game drama so he decided to end the game like a boss.
How he did it was pretty hilarious.
The Bills had first-and-10, so as long as they avoided disaster they would have several shots to get into the end zone. They had already marched 58 yards in 12 plays and the Raiders defense looked like it was getting a little winded, including Mack.
Still, just to be safe, the Bills put running back Mike Gillislee over to Mack's side to help Mills out with a chip block. I guess Buffalo had noticed Mack's late game heroics in previous games.
There's a saying about " the best laid plans," that fits perfectly here.
Mack came off the ball all slow and labored like he was totally gassed -- and hell maybe he was, who knows. That should have made it easier for Mills and Gillislee to double-team him. Instead, Mills, for some odd reason, over-set on Mack even though he had help outside and Mack wasn't selling a speed rush. That left Mills vulnerable to an inside move.
And Mack noticed.
In a flash, Mack went from slow motion to peeeewwwnnn as he exploded into Mills' chest and slithered inside of his block to come completely free. With Taylor almost in arm's length, Mack turned on the afterburners and chopped the ball right out of Taylor's hand before he could throw it away. As he rolled over after knocking Taylor down, the ball bounced right onto Mack's chest to give him the always coveted sack/forced fumble/fumble recovery hat trick on the same play.
You could almost hear him screaming out "gimmie dat!" as he knocks the ball out.
Or maybe that was just my imagination.
* * *
If you are taking score, that was four fourth quarter drives ended by Mack -- a quarter that began, mind you, with the Bills up 24-23. That's what I call making a damn impact on a game. It is also worth nothing that after his "slow" start, Mack is now tied for the third-most sacks on the season with 10, only 2.5 behind league leader Von Miller. He has certainly proven he is a legit Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
It's not just about how many big plays Mack is making, but also when he is making them, because Mack seems to show up most often when the game is on the line. It was the timeliness of his play making against the Bills that helped Khalil Mack earn his second Hoss of the Week Award of the season.