There’s not much sense in going on every week about how valuable Cameron Heyward is to this defense as one of the few truly consistent pieces on the unit that performs at a sustainably high level, because I take the time to break him down after just about every game. That is just the kind of impact that he has on games at times.
Last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs was no exception, as he extended his team lead in sacks by adding another sack and a half, bringing his season total to 6.5. Of course, while pass rushing may have become his strong suit, he is also a solid run defender, and sets the tone and pace on defense with his relentlessness and intensity.
Heyward notched his first sack—split with James Harrison—on just the Chiefs’ fourth play of the game, which came on a second and one. Heyward lined up over the left guard and immediately got right under his pads, walking his top half back. His bottom half was slow to catch up, resulting in a reverse pancake, and Heyward was on Alex Smith in a hurry.
There was another instance later on the opening drive of Heyward walking the left guard back into the pocket, on a second and goal play. Smith barely got the pass off before Heyward threw the guard into the quarterback, and that was just to throw the ball away.
It was Heyward again on the next play, on third down, notching the sack that held the Chiefs to a field goal on their opening drive. He stood up out of the nickel lined up over left guard, but with Harrison cutting inside and working back the left tackle, Heyward chased around the edge and was able to get to Smith in no time for the sack.
Heyward, in fact, was getting fairly consistent pressure throughout the game, including the opening play of the final quarter, in which he lined up on the inside shoulder of the left tackle out of the base defense.
As the offensive lined stepped left, Heyward stepped with them, but he managed to swim between the left guard and tackle to penetrate into the backfield, driving the running back away and chasing down Smith, forcing to heave the ball down the field as he was knocked to the ground.
Two plays later, Jason Worilds notched his second sack of the game, but Heyward was there too. He started out working to the outside of the left guard before moving inside, stepping past him inside and around him, getting a shoulder into Smith as he was going down.
Later in that drive, on a second and 10, Heyward helped prevent the Chiefs from getting closer when he made this heady, athletic play to cut down the athletic De’Anthony Thomas before he was able to get out into open field.