Chargers linebacker Mack more focused on winning than having a career year
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Khalil Mack is on pace for a career year and on the verge of reaching 100 career sacks.
It hardly matters for the Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker.
“I'm just trying to win some games. That's the only thing I can focus on and think about,” he said.
Mack goes into Sunday's game against the New England Patriots tied for third in the NFL with 13 sacks. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month this week after having six sacks, two strip-sacks, five tackles for loss and three passes defensed in a four-game span.
With a pair of sacks last week against Baltimore, Mack joined Hall of Famer Kevin Greene as the only players to have a 12-sack season with three teams since individual sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
“He’s playing at an elite level, as well as I’ve ever seen him play,” said coach Brandon Staley, who was also Mack’s linebackers coach in Chicago in 2018. “He looks fresh. He looks healthy. He’s been doing it all year.”
Mack’s play is one of the few bright spots in a disappointing month for the Chargers. They started the month with a dominating 27-6 win over the New York Jets on “Monday Night Football” but have dropped the last three.
At 4-7, the Chargers would likely have to win their six remaining games to have a shot at a wild-card spot.
Mack's best season was in 2015 with the Oakland Raiders, when he finished second in the league with 15 sacks. He needs 2 1/2 to set a new personal high, and to become the 43rd player in league history to reach the century mark in sacks.
Mack has four multi-sack games, including the past two weeks. He set a team record with six sacks in an Oct. 1 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
"If I get single-blocked, I can affect the game, but don’t tell nobody else that,” he said.
Mack, who also leads the team with 47 quarterback pressures, has excelled in areas other than pass rushing. He is tied for second on the Chargers with 20 run stops.
Even though the 32-year-old Mack is putting together one of the best seasons of his 10-year career, he is doing it on a defense ranked last in the league. He's also been one of the few healthy players on a squad continually beset by injuries. Fellow linebacker Joey Bosa is on injured reserve due to a sprained foot after he missed 11 games last season with a groin injury.
One reason Mack has remained healthy is he is getting a veterans rest day on Wednesdays. Defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley said the mix of getting Mack rest and spreading out practice snaps among younger players, including rookie Tuli Tuipulotu, has benefited everyone.
"We don’t try to wear him out through the week. We give him the reps that he needs,” Ansley said.
Mack and the Chargers will face a New England offense that has allowed 25 sacks, which is tied for ninth-fewest in the league. If Mack is able to get a sack against the Patriots — whether it is Bailey Zappe, Will Grier or Mac Jones — they will be the 43rd quarterback he has posted a sack against in a regular-season game.
“We didn't see ourselves in this position, but we can’t hang our head right now. Putting one foot in front of the other and getting ready for the next game is all you can do at this point of the season. Everybody needs to focus on winning,” Mack said.
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