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Chiefs in rush to have Tamba Hali back

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, Sep. 10, 2012, at 7:22 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012, at 3:52 p.m.

The Chiefs just one game into their season are a team sorely in need of something to lift their sagging spirits. Alone he won’t be enough to fix everything that ails them, but linebacker Tamba Hali returned Monday to their practice facility and will be in their lineup Sunday when they play against the Bills in Buffalo.

Hali didn’t play in the regular-season opener, a 40-24 loss to Atlanta, because he was serving a one-game NFL suspension for violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

“We all know Tamba brings a lot to the table as far as his ability to rush the passer,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “When you have that kind of pressure you can apply to an opposing offense, that’s good for us and bad for them. We’ll get him back and hopefully he’ll be at a level where he can impact the opponent and be able to help us win some games.”

It’s bad fortune for the Chiefs that Hali missed a home game and will rejoin the Chiefs in time for two road games. The Chiefs play against the Saints in New Orleans on Sept. 23.

All 12 of Hali’s career multisack games were played at Arrowhead Stadium, where he can benefit from the crowd noise that serves as a hindrance as the opposing offense tries to hear the snap count and otherwise communicate. The Chiefs are 9-3 in those games.

More than two-thirds of Hali’s career sacks have come at Arrowhead.

But the Chiefs can’t afford to be picky. Hali is their best pass rusher. Other than a Justin Houston sack, the Chiefs accomplished little on Sunday in the way of roughing up Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who generally had plenty of time to get his throws off.

“Houston was in the quarterback’s face a couple of times along with the sack he got,” Crennel said. “We were able to get some push on the pocket, but they were able to make the plays. We were close on some, but they didn’t make them. It’s encouraging to see you can be close on a play.”

Designing a defensive game plan without Hali was a challenge for the Chiefs. The Chiefs used a variety of players to replace Hali. Most often in pass-rush situations it was Edgar Jones, who had 1½ sacks in five seasons for Baltimore.

“We were limited a little bit, but we also felt like the guys we had behind him would have to step up and do the best they could to help the team win, and that’s what you do every week because in the NFL, you don’t have all your players healthy for every game,” Crennel said. “So you’re going to miss some guys sometimes and then their backups have to step up to try to help you.”

Hali was one of four defensive starters who didn’t play against the Falcons. The others were free safety Kendrick Lewis, cornerback Brandon Flowers and nose tackle Anthony Toribio. All are injured.

The Chiefs are more than capable of yielding big points with Hali in their lineup. The Bills scored 41 points against Kansas City in the season opener last year, when Hali played.

But he is also the missing defender most capable of having a positive impact.

“Tamba would have helped, of course,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “You’ve got to find a way. You can’t have excuses. I didn’t even think about Tamba this week. That’s just how it is in the NFL.”

To reach Adam Teicher, call 816-234-4875 or send email to ateicher@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/adamteicher.

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