KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's been a while since Chiefs center Mitch Morse surrendered a sack in pass protection – so long that he had to take a moment to try to remember when it might have happened.
“I think in Pittsburgh I got bull rushed and (Patrick Mahomes) stepped up into it,” Morse said trying to recall the last sack he surrendered. “I probably held him to to 2 yards. I fell into Pat, Pat fell down for a sack.”
Morse more than held his own on the play against Steelers nose tackle Dan McCullers. Mahomes indeed stepped up into the pocket, and all McCuller had to do was peel off Morse for the stop. Pro Football Focus put the fault of the sack on Mahomes for stepping into it since Morse did his job on the play.
In fact, the last time Morse gave up a sack extends much further than that according to PFF. Their analysts credits Morse with a streak of 1,543 consecutive pass blocks without allowing a sack. That's the eighth-longest streak tracked by PFF during the past 13 seasons.
That total impresses offensive line mate Jeff Allen.
“That's really hard to do, 1,500 pass snaps and not give up a sack,” Allen said. “I don't know how many guys have done that, but it's a nice streak, hope he can keep it going.”
The last sack Morse surrendered according to PFF did come against the Steelers – in 2015. Morse and left guard Ben Grubbs double teamed Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon. Morse didn't pick up linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier coming on the blitz up the middle. They combined to bring down Alex Smith for a 7-yard loss.
That Week 7 sack was the final of three sacks Morse surrendered as a rookie – although he said it felt like more.
“Those are legit. I probably made up for a lifetime of sacks my rookie year,” Morse said.
Morse said he doesn't have much of a secret for his pass protection success. “I fight for my life on every play,” he joked. But teammates such as Eric Fisher see a teammate who continues to improve season by season.
“Center is the one that you've got to know what's going on all over the field just to get the rest of us going in the right direction,” Fisher said. “He's done a great job just growing in the mental aspect of the game, putting us on the right guys, reading defense. The quarterback's a big part of that, but Mitch has grown in the aspect.”
Allen played with Morse during the 2015 season before returning to the club this year. He believes Morse entered the league with plenty of strength and power, but his knowledge of the game and mental preparation have grown substantially during the past four seasons.
“He's always been a smart kid, but he's a man now,” Allen said. “He's gotten a lot better physically. Mentally he's at that point where you know if he says something, it's 100 percent the correct thing.”
While Morse seems allergic to surrendering sacks, he's almost just as stingy with penalties. Morse has picked up just 11 flags in his career including seven holding penalties. He has penalties this season, three of them for holding.
Philadephia Eagles center Jason Kelce, who earned first-team honors at center from the Associated Press this season, picked up four flags this season and 24 during the past four years.
“I tape my wrists real well so I'm not afraid to throw my hands up I guess is the thing,” Morse said. “We work on it and coaches put us in a great position to execute.”
Morse gives much of the credit for his pass protection success to his teammates, especially the guards on either side of him and the rest of the offense.
“I've had guys around me who made my job a lot easier,” Morse said. “And the systems that we've had, we've had quarterbacks get rid of the ball. We've had some really good quarterbacks and great running backs who can block and help you out.”
He also appreciates recognition for the streak, yet it also make him uncomfortable at the same time. That's the life of an offensive lineman, where often no one notices your work until a mistake happens. Judging offensive line play without knowing the calls and responsibilities is also an inexact art.
“I'm in weird limbo area where it's great and I love positive vibes and good stuff, but there's probably a few sacks in there,” Morse said about the streak.
“It's great and it makes me feel good and my parents like it. But you never really know the intricacies of the play. You never really know the blitz with the call that was made.”
But if he's not credited with another sack, that's also fine by him.
“But if they didn't give them to me, that's great,” Morse said with a laugh. “I hope they continue to do that throughout my career.”