Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness: Dirty Dan is underrated and the NFL is starting to see it

On a defense that is loaded with superstars, safety Daniel Sorensen has made a name for himself with his clutch performances over the past two seasons.

Dating back to the Dallas Texan days with Hall of Famer Johnny Robinson to more recent years with Eric Berry and Tyrann Mathieu, the Kansas City Chiefs have had a long history of play-making safeties being on their roster. The safety position is usually considered to be the last line of defense and they not only have to be decent against the passing game, but they also have to be able to hit as well.

While the Chiefs have two pretty great starting safeties in Mathieu and Juan Thornhill, their third safety that they use mostly in nickel or dime packages is proving to be just as great. Daniel Sorensen, or “Dirty Dan” as he is known by the fans, has come up clutch in several games during his seven seasons with the Chiefs.

In 2014, the Chiefs signed Sorensen as an undrafted free agent. He battled his way through some tough competition at the safety spot and made the final roster as a backup to starting strong safety Eric Berry. Two seasons later, he recorded his first career interception in a game against the Jets.

He would get two more that season, including a pick-six against Drew Brees. Due to Berry getting injured, Sorensen was able to start at strong safety for the 2017 season. However, it has been his play in the last two seasons that has Chiefs fans and the NFL taking notice.

Last season, in a Monday Night Football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Dirty Dan made a game-saving interception with 18 seconds left to play in the game. The Chargers were deep in Chiefs territory and only needed a touchdown to tie up the game. Sorensen prevented that from happening.

That was just the start of his clutch-performing season. He had another late-game interception against the Chargers in week 17, but that game was pretty much over by then. His real impact didn’t happen until the playoffs.

In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Chiefs got off to an awful start, falling behind big by a score of 24-0 to the Houston Texans in the second quarter. After the Chiefs finally got it going offensively and put up their first points of the game, Dan Sorensen prevented the Texans from getting back the momentum.

On a 4th & 4 from the Houston 31-yard line, Texans safety Justin Reid took a direct snap on a fake punt and sprinted towards the first-down marker. Sorensen, who was the only player to recognize the fake, made a great open-field tackle to stop Reid short of the first down. The Chiefs regained possession and scored another touchdown three plays later.

“That was one of the most unbelievable tackles I’ve ever seen on a special-teams play. It was a solo tackle, out in space, hard tackle, angle tackle, and then he has to stop him short for basically a 2-yard gain, otherwise, they get the first down. I thought it was a good call, I really did. But Dan, I think he’s been waiting all year for that play. He just was shot out of a cannon and didn’t miss a beat and made a nice tackle in space.”

Dave Toub – Chiefs special teams coach

On the ensuing kickoff, Sorensen forced a fumble that was picked up by Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson and returned to the Houston 10-yard line. The Chiefs would score again three plays later and they would eventually beat the Texans 51-31.

Dirty Dan had a big impact in the following playoff game as well. The Chiefs were holding on to a four-point lead in the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs had just punted on their opening possession of the second half. The Titans had the ball and a chance to take back the lead.

On a 3rd & 10, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill scrambled to the right and was heading for the first down marker, when Sorensen breaks off his receiver and completely lights Tannehill up four yards before the marker.

The Titans would punt, and the Chiefs would score a touchdown on the next possession. They never lost the lead and won 35-24.

This season has been the same story. In a game against New England, Daniel Sorensen came up big right before the half when the Patriots were trying to take the lead. On a 2nd & 5, he was able to stop a screen pass to running back James White for a loss of four yards. This would set up a passing situation, where Patriots’ quarterback Brian Hoyer was sacked, not leaving enough time for a game-tying field goal.

Currently, Daniel Sorensen is coming off of back-to-back games with an interception. His first interception of the two-game stretch was against Buffalo. The Chiefs had a nine-point lead with less than two minutes to play in the game, so there was no real concern of losing. However, Sorensen was able to pick off quarterback Josh Allen to end the game officially.

His second interception came last week against the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs had been struggling offensively since they scored a touchdown on their first drive. After the touchdown, their next three drives ended in a fumble, field goal, and a punt. Being up only 10-6 and with the Broncos driving, they needed something to swing the momentum. Dirty Dan did just that.

After a Tanoh Kpassagnon sack, Sorensen picked off Drew Lock’s pass intended for Noah Fant on the very next play. He returned the pick all the way for a score and gave the Chiefs an 11-point lead. Arrowhead Live film analyst Caleb James showed how well Sorensen read the play from Drew Lock’s eyes.

The Chiefs would go on to win handily 43-16 and Sorensen was week 7’s highest-graded defensive player per Pro Football Focus.

Daniel Sorensen is definitely a player that has proved that he can be an impact on defense and on special teams. Last season he showed up in big moments that helped Kansas City get to and win their first Super Bowl in 50 years. This season he is picking up where he left off, and if the Chiefs do end up running it back, you better believe Dirty Dan is going to play a big part in that.

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