Outside linebacker Justin Houston, who leads the NFL in sacks, and running back Jamaal Charles, who leads the AFC in touchdowns, were among four Chiefs selected for the Pro Bowl, to be played on Jan. 25 in Glendale, Ariz.
Houston and Charles will be joined by outside linebacker Tamba Hali and nose tackle Dontari Poe.
Houston who has a career-best 18 sacks, will make his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. Charles, who has scored 14 touchdowns — nine rushing, five receiving — will be making his fourth appearance as will Hali, who has six sacks.
Poe, the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 2012, will be making his second straight appearance.
The Pro Bowl will follow the format of a year ago in which players will be assigned to teams during a Pro Bowl Draft on Jan. 21 as opposed to the AFC vs. NFC matchup.
Houston’s 18 sacks are two shy of the club-record 20 set by Derrick Thomas in 1990, and 4.5 short of the NFL-record 22.5 set by Michael Strahan in 2001.
Houston, who turns 26 on Jan. 12, became the fourth player in franchise history to record at least three seasons with double-digit sack totals — 10 in 2012, 11 in 2013 and 18 this season. Thomas achieved the feat seven times, Neil Smith four times and teammate Tamba Hali three times.
Houston has had six multi-sack games this season, and he’s had at least one sack in 12 of the Chiefs’ 15 games this season. He also has been credited with 22 quarterback pressures, four passes defensed and three forced fumbles.
Houston, who will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, was more concerned about this week’s game against San Diego than the Pro Bowl.
“That’s something I’ll look at when the season is over with,” Houston said when asked last week about the Pro Bowl. “My focus is on the next two games. If you ask me about it at the end of the season, I can give you an answer.”
Houston’s 46.3 rating by Pro Football Focus is twice as high as any outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and his 32.1 rating at rushing the passer is significantly better than his closest competitor, Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil, who has 17 sacks.
Charles, who became the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher earlier this season — now with 6,802 yards —ranks fifth in the AFC in rushing with 979 yards in 193 carries (5.1-yard average). He needs 21 yards to extend his franchise record to five 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Charles, who turns 28 on Saturday, rushed for a season-best 159 yards and two touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 24-20 victory over Super Bowl champion Seattle on Nov. 16.
Charles is also the club’s third-leading receiver with 38 receptions for 283 yards.
Hali, 31, ranks second on the team to Houston with six sacks. He has been credited with 57 tackles, including seven for loss, 11 quarterback pressures, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Poe, the disruptive force in the middle of the Chiefs defense, often occupies double-team blocks that frees linebackers to make plays. Poe, a 6-foot-3, 346-pounder, ranks eighth on the team with 43 tackles and is third with a career-best 5.0 sacks, a high number for an interior lineman.
“It’s big,” Poe said of his return to the Pro Bowl. “It’s always a great thing to be invited to an event like that, especially how big it is. It’s a great accomplishment.”
The Chiefs’ four selections are half as many as last year when eight players were voted to the Pro Bowl and two others were added to the squad, including linebacker Derrick Johnson, who was voted the game’s Defensive Player of the Game.
Of those not selected, the glaring omission was fullback Anthony Sherman. Though Sherman has carried just twice for eight yards and caught 10 passes for 71 yards, his blocking clears the way for Charles and Knile Davis to rank as the NFL’s fourth-leading running back tandem.
Sherman’s 8.8 overall rating and 6.6 blocking rating by Pro Football Focus topped his nearest competitor, the New York Giants’ Henry Hynoski, who is rated 6.3, 6.1, but the two fullbacks selected were Green Bay’s John Kuhn (2.8, 4.3) and Oakland’s Marcel Reece (-6.4, -5.3)
The 2015 Pro Bowl coaching staffs will be from the losing teams in the AFC and NFC Divisional playoffs with the best regular-season records. The AFC had 46 players selected; and 40 were honored from the NFC.
Each player on the winning Pro Bowl team will receive $55,000, while each player on the losing squad earns $28,000.