He has elevated his play to ranges of the previous, nearly to a time when he was named the NFL’s high defender.

Khalil Mack’s rise has been so pronounced of late that it’d even be cosmic.

“It’s about how unselfish he’s and the way for the staff and for this protection he performs,” Chargers linebacker Eric Kendricks mentioned. “I really feel just like the soccer gods are going to be in your facet once you play like that.”

A willingness to face in in opposition to the run and shut down the perimeter by Mack and the opposite edge rushers has helped the Chargers gradual opposing floor assaults. In consequence, groups have been pressured into the precise type of passing conditions that open sack alternatives, alternatives the Chargers have seized to turn out to be one of many NFL’s greatest at harassing quarterbacks.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley smiles as he greets Joey Bosa (97) and Khalil Mack before a game.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley is all smiles when he has Joey Bosa (97) and Khalil Mack obtainable to go rush off the perimeters.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Occasions)

Led by Mack, this protection has generated 31 sacks, tied for the second within the NFL whereas representing a counter punch for a passing protection that ranks thirty second in yards per recreation.

Mack has 9 sacks — like bananas, they usually are available bunches, and all of Mack’s have occurred in three video games — and is on tempo to high the career-high 15 he produced in 2015.

Just one participant, Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter with 10, has extra sacks than Mack, who’s 32 and in his tenth season however nonetheless has the juice and abs of somebody a number of years youthful.

 Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack speaks in a press conference.

Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack nonetheless shows the physique of a younger NFL participant.

(Ryan Solar / Related Press)

“It’s been particular to look at and particular to be part of,” defensive lineman Morgan Fox mentioned. “He doesn’t solely produce. He makes everybody round him higher too. You’ve seen it on third down and the way our run protection has modified. All these edge guys are taking part in nice within the run recreation. That’s a mirrored image of the management of a man like Khalil, who’ll get his nostril bloody and make these robust tackles.”

The Chargers simply sacked New York’s Zach Wilson eight instances and are coming off consecutive elite performances, dominating Chicago and smothering the Jets.

However these video games weren’t statements as a lot as options in regards to the Chargers’ prowess. No, to be taken severely, this protection should stand as much as a extra daunting foe.

On cue, right here come the 6-2 Detroit Lions to SoFi Stadium on Sunday — the NFL’s present it staff, with a balanced offense and a quarterback who has been wonderful at avoiding sacks and different bits of disaster.

Jared Goff might be armed with a harmful large receiver (Amon-Ra St. Brown), a budding tight finish (Sam LaPorta) and two headache-inducing operating backs (David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs).

The whole thing might be protected by an offensive entrance ranked most lately because the NFL’s greatest by Professional Soccer Focus, the Lions having surrendered however 16 sacks, the sixth-fewest.

Now, an opportunity to actually present one thing? In opposition to a top quality offense? And an skilled, established quarterback?

“We’re not making an attempt to show something to anybody however the guys on this locker room,” Mack mentioned. “Our expectation is to exit and play dominant protection no matter who the opponent is.”

The Chargers are 4-4 and have arrived there within the oddest of the way, a two-game dropping streak adopted by a two-game profitable streak adopted by a two-game dropping streak adopted by a two-game profitable streak.

Amid the wild swings of success and failure, coach Brandon Staley has preached consistency in perspective and preparation. He has touted his staff’s current observe habits, explaining that recreation day isn’t restricted to 24 hours.

“The NFL calls for your respect right now,” Staley mentioned, “not predicting what’s occurring this Sunday or what’s occurring in a few weeks.”

Whereas the defenders have been extra in step during the last two video games, their celebrations have been equally choreographed, the Chargers heeding the phrases of coordinator Derrick Ansley, who urged his protection to have extra enjoyable.

So the Chargers danced in opposition to the Bears and partied in opposition to the Jets. Mack’s fellow edge rushers, Joey Bosa and Tuli Tuipulotu, even took to swapping private post-sack celebrations in salute of each other.

“We’re honing in on the alternatives,” Mack mentioned. “We’re having much more enjoyable and having fun with taking part in collectively.”

After victories of 17 and 21 factors, the Chargers are underdogs Sunday and certain going through one other four-quarter fidget pageant. In want of a signature win, this recreation presents probably the most inviting of clean areas.

And in Mack, the Chargers have a participant able to leaving his autograph — and fingerprints — all around the SoFi Stadium turf.

“You would like you had 11 Khalils which can be prepared to place their nostril in there and get in a battle for 65 performs or no matter it’s,” Fox mentioned. “He’s been superior to look at.”

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