COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Joey Bosa has been considered one of the NFL’s best pass rushers since entering the league in 2016. The Los Angeles Chargers linebacker has added another element to his game, making him an even bigger headache for quarterbacks.
Bosa leads the league with five strip-sacks entering Thursday night’s pivotal matchup against AFC West rival Kansas City. It is the most forced fumbles by a Chargers defender against a quarterback since Marcellus Wiley also had five in 2001.
“Every time I get an opportunity, I’m going for the ball,” Bosa said. “I think that’s how you really change the game; sacks are good, but being able to get those turnovers and get it in the hands of (QB) Justin (Herbert) is way more helpful in getting those wins. In the past, I would have probably just gone for a big hit, but now, I’d rather reach out and take the ball because it’s a lot simpler, and you get the forced fumble.”
Bosa is tied for seventh in the AFC with 8 1/2 sacks and has a sack in five of the past six games. The only game he didn’t get one was Dec. 5 at Cincinnati when he played only one quarter due to being evaluated for a concussion. Bosa was cleared to return, but coach Brandon Staley erred on the side of caution.
The recent flurry of sacks is Bosa’s best run since he had a streak of six straight games in 2017.
While Bosa has been consistent all season, the Chargers’ defense has put together two straight solid games for the first time all year. They have forced seven three-and-outs, six takeaways, and 15 passes defensed in victories over the Bengals and New York Giants.
Los Angeles also comes in with a little bit of momentum against the Chiefs. In the Sept. 26 game, it forced four turnovers, including a late fourth-quarter interception that led to the go-ahead touchdown in a 30-24 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chargers (8-5) are one game behind the Chiefs in the division, but a win on Thursday night would give them the tiebreaker and vault them into the AFC West lead.
“I think that we had a good plan going into the last time we played them, and we executed it pretty well. I think we need to do the same,” Bosa said. “Obviously, the point of emphasis is (Patrick) Mahomes and keeping him inside of the pocket so that he can’t hurt you with his feet. It’s always been a challenge playing those guys. Thursday night, after a quick turnaround and, obviously, primetime, it’s going to be pretty tough. Luckily, this game, I think a lot of us came out feeling pretty good.”
Besides being on track for the fourth double-digit sack season in his six-year career, Bosa could become one of the youngest players in NFL history to reach 60 sacks if he gets four in the final four games.
Bosa has 1 1/2 career sacks against Mahomes, with one coming in this season’s first game. Houston, the Chargers opponent on Dec. 26, has allowed 37 sacks this season, tied for fifth most.
Bosa also has sacks against Denver’s Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, while the Jan. 9 regular-season finale comes against Derek Carr and Las Vegas. Carr is Bosa’s most-sacked QB with seven.
“I think he’s great. His production and sack total speak for themselves,” Kansas City offensive tackle Orlando Brown said.
NOTES: WR Keenan Allen was activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Allen, tied for second in the AFC with 86 receptions, missed Sunday’s game against the Giants. ... Trey Pipkins III is expected to start at left offensive tackle if Rashawn Slater cannot play Thursday night. Slater entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols on Monday following a positive test.
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