JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dontari Poe insists he's been staying away from the barbecue.
“Still not touching it,” Poe said after the Chiefs' 28-2 win over the Jaguars. “It's not as hard as you think.”
After the second-year nose tackle's performance on Sunday, it's easy to believe him. The 6-foot-3, 335-pound Poe, who made waves in August when he told reporters that he lost about 15 pounds this offseason by eliminating KC barbecue from his diet, was all but unblockable against the Jaguars.
Poe began the day by batting a pass down in the first quarter — he only had four all of last season. He also racked up a couple of tackles while clogging the middle on run plays. Poe got his first career sack in the second quarter, and he picked up another half sack in the second half.
Poe finished with six tackles, only one off the team high, and two quarterback hits. He also was one replay away from adding a forced fumble to his resume.
After a 2012 season in which he finished with 38 tackles but could have made more plays, it was exactly the kind of statement he wanted to make.
“That's the point, period,” Poe said. “Just coming out here trying to play hard, trying to show everybody that I'm here and I'm here to stay. That's how it is. That's why I worked so hard in the summer.”
Let's just say a litany of teammates agreed Poe's hard work has paid off.
“Everybody saw it,” said Chiefs defensive end Mike Catapano. “He's a dominant player in every facet of the game. He's big, he's hard to control, he's got pass-rush ability, and the best part about him is he's got a tremendous, tremendous motor. He's running around all the time, covering the whole field.
“For a 340-pound guy to do that, that's pretty scary.”
Outside linebacker Tamba Hali also credited the coaching staff for making the adjustments that would allow Poe to take advantage of his considerable gifts, which he displayed at the 2012 NFL Combine when he bench-pressed 225 pounds a position-high 44 times and ran a 4.98 40-yard dash at 346 pounds.
“The coaches are allowing him to be a player, to express himself and basically I think, just allowing him to go through gaps instead of waiting and reading,” Hali said. “That's huge for a guy his size.”
Poe was a huge factor on a defense that finished with two turnovers and six sacks and dominated a Jaguars' offense that was missing two of its best targets, wide receiver Justin Blackmon and tight end Marcedes Lewis.
This also might be a good time to point out that it is a 16-game season, of course, and there are certainly better offensive lines out there than Jacksonville's, which featured three interior starters —Uche Nwaneri, Will Rackley and Brad Meester —who have struggled in pass protection at various points in recent seasons.
Poe understands his mission for respect is far from over. But there's no doubt he took a certain amount of pleasure in the Chiefs' dominant 2013 debut, one he played a starring role in.