KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali is totally consumed by rushing the passer.
Not a moment goes by when Hali isn't thinking about the offensive tackle he's about to face, the guard or running back who will double team him and how quickly he can get to the quarterback.
Chiefs interim coach Romeo Crennel has noticed.
"You walk through the hall with Tamba," Crennel said on Tuesday, "and when he goes into the meeting room, he'll make the pass rush move into the meeting room. That's his mentality."
Hali's determination paid off in the Chiefs' 19-14 upset of the Green Bay Packers. He matched his career-best with three sacks of Aaron Rodgers and a forced fumble. That gave him 12 sacks for the season, and he became the fourth player in Chiefs history to register back-to-back 10-plus sack seasons.
And Hali, in his sixth season since being drafted in the first round from Penn State, moved into fourth place in franchise history with 53 1/2 sacks.
The Chiefs have a grand tradition of great pass rushers, starting with players like Pro Football Hall of Famers Bobby Bell and Buck Buchanan, who terrorized quarterbacks before sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982. The tradition continued with the three career sack leaders in franchise history _ Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas (126 1/2), and two members of the Chiefs Hall of Fame, Neil Smith (86 1/2) and Art Still (73).
Jared Allen, who led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks in 2007, appeared to be next in line among Chiefs' sack artists, but his departure in a 2008 trade put the pressure on Hali to become the franchise's next great pass rusher.
Where Thomas used sheer speed to get to the quarterback; Smith and Still took advantage of their height and wing span; and Allen and Bell used brute strength to overpower blockers. Hali, 6-3, 275, simply outworks them.
The Chiefs employ martial arts instructor Joe Kim to work with their pass rushers, and Hali is his prize pupil.
"Tamba comes to work every day, and particularly on Sunday," Crennel said. "He is relentless at rushing the passer. He works at his trade. He and Joe have become like brothers. He picks his brain to find out everything Joe knows about hand usage, about flipping your hips, about making the inside move. He takes it to heart and he works on it.
"Then on Sunday, he is doggedly pursuing the quarterback, down in and down out. Like Sunday, it began to catch up with those offensive linemen and began to wear them down a little bit because of the way he goes about it, and he ended up getting some sacks toward the end."
Hali, like all elite pass rushers, has to contend with double teams and with being held when it's not always called. That's not to mention the low rate of actually getting to a quarterback, maybe once or twice in 30 to 40 pass attempts.
So what keeps someone like Hali chasing and chasing the passer?
"He knows that good, sweet feeling that he gets when he gets there," Crennel said. "And how important it is for the team for him to get a sack."
Hali also had to make the adjustment from a defensive end in a 4-3 front to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 when the Chiefs made a coaching change in 2009.
So now, instead of merely focusing on rushing the passer, Hali sometimes has to drop into coverage and read routes of receivers coming out of the backfield.
"Tamba is not the prettiest guy running when he runs across the field," Crennel said, "but when that ball is snapped, he's a different deal."
Hali has not had an interception since the change to the 3-4 and has not picked off a pass since his rookie year against San Diego's Philip Rivers.
"When he gets one," Crennel said, "it really will be fun, because he'll be so excited... he's made some good reads and some good reactions but he hasn't gotten his hands on a pass yet."