The awards keep coming for Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston.
On Thursday, the third-year pro was named the AFC's defensive player of the month for the first time, after he racked up 19 tackles, 7 ½ sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumbles during the Chiefs' 4-0 start.
Houston, who is tied for the league lead in sacks with Indianapolis defensive end Robert Mathis, was also named defensive player of the week after the Chiefs' wins over Jacksonville and Philadelphia.
Like he did after each of those awards, he thanked his teammates for their help. But he also took the time to thank one of them, outside linebacker Tamba Hali, in particular.
“He’s the reason why my career has improved so much,” Houston said. “He taught me pretty much everything I know in the pass rushing game, he taught me how to rush the tackles, how to read the tackles. The pass rush, it was all him. … My rookie season, he taught me that pass rush was a game within the game, so once you figure that out it will help out a lot.”
Houston is just one piece of a defense that has been stingy, allowing 10.3 points per game and registering a league-high 18 sacks, but he says his hot start also reflect the improvements he's made as a player.
“I think just understanding the game, the whole game,” Houston said. “Just reading formations, studying the tackles, just knowing the game better.”
Houston, who is the first Chiefs linebacker to win the defensive player of the month award since Derrick Thomas did it in 1997, said opposing teams have begun to take notice, too.
“I’ve seen a couple double teams, I’ve seen some attention,” Houston said. “But it’s hard to just focus on one guy when I’ve got my teammates making plays, so as long as they’re doing that I know my teammates are going to make plays.”