Early in the season, there was much concern around Green Bay over the lack of production by the Packers' pass rush.
Through seven games the team had amassed just 10 sacks, slightly more than one per contest. This fell well short of their output from the past three seasons, which saw the Pack bring down opposing passers 52, 43, and 34 times respectively in 2001, 2002, and 2003, an average of at least two sacks per game each season.
When you think of the Packers' pass rush in recent years, one name comes to mind, and it's that of defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Along with the rest of his defensive teammates, KGB was statistically off to a slow start in 2004.
Through the team's first seven games, he had registered just a sack and a half (all coming in week four against the New York Giants), also well off from his output over the past three seasons. From 2001-03, Gbaja-Biamila ranked fifth in the NFL with 35.5 sacks and was just one of four players to reach double-digits in each of those campaigns.
Over the past three weeks though, both KGB and the rest of the defense have picked up the pace, with #94 turning in five sacks in that span (including back-to-back two-sack games in the last two games) and the team as a whole doubling their total from 10 to 20.
Although he appears to be coming on in the second half of the season, similar to him picking up six sacks in six games down the stretch last year, Kabeer doesn't think he can be classified as a second half of the season player.
"I've never thought of myself as a second half player," he said. "I guess this year it seems like I'm a second half player statistically, but I'm just an every down player. Last year I kind of started picking it up and this year it's kind of happening again. I just take it one game at a time."
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman thinks that the Gbaja-Biamila's breakout games have been coming for a while and it was just a matter of time before they showed up.
"He's been pushing and pushing and his opportunities - you look at people in this league that rush the quarterback, they do come in clumps sometimes," Sherman said. "You just get those opportunities and you make the most of them, you just keep pushing the envelope and that's something he's been doing. He's been working and pushing it and pushing it and eventually it would happen."
The speed-rushing specialist thinks that there are many factors that have led to his recent upswing on the stat sheet.
"I've probably changed my technique and probably bull-rushed them and then the quarterback is trying to leak out into the middle and I come off on there," Gbaja-Biamila said. "The guys in the middle are helping me - Cullen Jenkins helped me on one of my sacks. The defensive backs are doing a good job in not allowing the quarterback to have somebody to right away have somebody to throw the ball to. There are a lot of reasons."
Kabeer also thinks that a degree of familiarity has helped him out in beating the opposition's linemen lately.
"I'm playing more teams that I'm familiar with," he said. "Minnesota - I'm very familiar with that team, I kind of have an idea of how to beat that kind of team. Houston is similar in that they pass a lot and (QB David) Carr holds the ball a little bit longer, so I was able to be a little more familiar with them. I think a lot of teams we played at the beginning of the season had better tackles and I was not as familiar with how they do things."
Although he looks to be matched up with one of the game's best in St. Louis' left tackle Orlando Pace Monday night, KGB will have the familiarity of having played against this opponent twice in the past three seasons.
He's picking up sacks in clumps, and facing another heavy-passing team, look for more of the same this week.