The pass-rushing prowess of Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl outside linebacker Tamba Hali tends to put an offense on high alert.
Although Hali has only generated nine tackles and one sack this season since returning from a one-game suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy, the Ravens haven't forgotten how much trouble he gave them during a 30-7 AFC wild-card playoff victory over the Chiefs two seasons ago.
Hali recorded seven tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and a pass deflection against Baltimore, primarily rushing against left offensive tackle Michael Oher. Oher gets another shot at Hali on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
"Great player, has a lot of different moves, has speed, power to bull rush," Oher said of Hali, who had a dozen sacks and four forced fumbles last season. "He does different things, he's capable of a variety of things. Whatever he does, he's going to do it fairly well."
It's a case of mutual respect between Oher and Hali.
A former Penn State standout, the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder wasn't inclined to brag about getting past Oher in the playoff game, or make assumptions that it's a precursor to how Sunday's matchup will unfold.
"Great athlete, good player, knows how to punch his hands," Hali said during a conference call. "He gets to the spot, forces you to make decisions, protects the inside very well, strong. Every year it’s different, and guys prepare differently. They are doing things a little different.
"Hopefully, if we get in that type of game, I’ll be able to use what I was able to do in prior years, but this year is a little different. Depending on how the game goes, it will be interesting on how he and I will match up for the entire game.”
Hali is off to a quiet start to this season, but history suggests he'll rebound strongly.
For his career, Hali has 54 1/2 sacks and 22 forced fumbles.
“I hope so," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. "We need for him to be productive, but Tamba tries hard every play. If you watch Tamba rush and he is giving it all and he is getting close. A lot of times he is not able to get the sack, but he does impact the quarterback. We expect that to continue.”
Meanwhile, Oher is coming off arguably his worst game of the season, committing three penalties on two holding calls and one false start in last week's win over the Cleveland Browns.
However, Oher shut out highly regarded New England Patriots rookie defensive end Chandler Jones, the AFC Defensive Rookie of the Month, two games ago.
"We just need to continue to get better," Oher said. "We have to cut down penalties and get better in a lot of different aspects."
The Ravens have allowed nine sacks in four games, and will have more than Hali to concern themselves with Sunday.
The Chiefs also have left outside linebacker Justin Houston, who leads them with four sacks, four fumble recoveries and five tackles for losses.
A former University of Georgia player, Houston conducted a private workout for Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees heading into the NFL draft two years ago before being picked by Kansas City.
"They've got two guys," coach John Harbaugh said. "The Houston kid from Georgia is a really talented pass rusher, too. So, they've got two tremendous pass rushers right now. It seems like we see those guys every week and there are two more of them coming down the pike.
"They are just both fast, speed edge rushers. They are both explosive athletic guys. They're more explosive, athetic type rushers more than power rushers, but they have power. They are just good players."
Predominantly running a 3-4 scheme, the Chiefs have 15 quarterback pressures this season.
"They get after the pass, they are great pass rushers off the edge," Ravens running back Ray Rice said. "We have to be alert where they are at all times."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times