KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chris Jones readily admits to letting superstition dictate many of his daily decisions. He wears the same clothes and the same cleats, eats dinner at the same restaurant. He even sticks with the same stinky gloves to avoid the perils of ending the hottest streak of his career.
“I got my first sack in these new gloves I got,” the Chiefs defensive lineman explains. “So ever since then I haven't changed the gloves. My teammates hate them.”
Jones seemingly picked up another superstition this season that involves collecting a sack during every game he plays. The third-year defensive end tallied at least one sack in each of his last 10 games. That matches the longest streak in the NFL since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. He currently shares the mark with DeMarcus Ware and Simon Fletcher, and can claim the record all to himself with a sack against Seattle Sunday night.
The transition into one of the league's top pass rushers traces its origin to his team's playoff loss last January to the Tennessee Titans. A torn MCL in his knee knocked Jones out of the game, forcing him to watch from the sidelines as the Titans rattled off 19 second-half points for a 22-21 victory.
“That weighed heavy on me,” Jones said. “I wanted to be available for this team this year in the playoff.”
Jones jettisoned pork from his diet, which meant saying goodbye to bacon. “I love breakfast food period,” Jones said. He switched to a diet heavy on vegetables and fish.
One transgression remains on the diet, but it also stems from his superstition. Every Monday night he and a couple of teammates head to a local restaurant called Mother Clucker.
“I have to get the same meal every time,” Jones said. “Even if I'm not hungry I have to get the same meal, which is a chicken sandwich, a milkshake – the milkshakes are delicious – two chicken breasts and three orders of fries.”
He always finishes the milkshake – “It's Cap'n Crunch cereal in it, a Rice Krispies treat and a donut hole at the bottom. Don't ask me why I remember this, I got it so many times.” The rest he picks and chooses what to have. .
“I don't eat all of this, it's just the fact that I got it one time, had success with it and I felt like if something's not broken, why fix it?”
Despite the cheat night, Jones said the new diet made a difference in how he feels, especially this late into the season.
“I try to make sure I maintain my body weight and body fat,” Jones said. “It keeps me moving around, I feel faster, I don't feel as sluggish, especially without eating pork.”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid agrees the offseason transformation paid off for Jones on the field this year.
“You saw the change in his body and how he really took care of himself physically with diets and workouts and all of that this offseason,” Reid said. “His body fat is way down. He works his fundamentals and techniques.”
Jones certainly finds himself in a reasonably favorable matchup to extend his record-setting streak Sunday night against the Seahawks. Seattle ranks tied for 22nd in protecting the passer this season, allowing 42 sacks on the campaign. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll says Jones possessses the explosiveness to make plays when given too many opportunities.
“Chris has done a great job of timing his rushes up and knowing what's coming and making people miss,” Carroll said. “He's really hard to deal with.”
Led by Jones, the Chiefs ranked tied for second in the league with 46 sacks. Four Chiefs have recorded at least six sacks on the season: Jones (14), Dee Ford (11 1/2), Justin Houston (6 1/2) and Allen Bailey (six).
“Dee Ford coming off the edge and Justin, those guys are a load to just start with,” Carroll said. “You've got problems on both edges and even though you have to try to help to Chris, it's hard, it's hard to find a way to do that consistently. They know what they're doing.”
Jones proclaimed during training camp his intention to lead the league in sacks this year, a boast scoffed at by most considering Jones produced just 8 1/2 sacks through his first two season. He trails league leader Aaron Donald by 2 1/2 sacks entering the final two weeks of the season. Reid won't bet against him getting there.
“He still has room to grow, which is great,” Reid said. “He isn’t tapped out by any means where he is at.”
Jones also set his sights on another goal – reaching Justin Houston's club record 22 sacks
“That's the plan, man,” Jones said. “That's the plan. That's a long ways to go. I know it's a long shot but I feel like I can.”
This time, however, no one's laughing.