Khalil Mack’s done a lot of things on a football field. On Sunday, at 32 years old, he did something he hadn’t before.

And a week earlier, on the Chargers’ team plane, his coach, Brandon Staley, may have foretold the moment Mack was about to have as the players boarded for the flight home after a dramatic Week 3 win over the Vikings. Staley went to find his star edge rusher and, when he spotted him, held two fingers close together—a sign the two have shared since Staley was Mack’s position coach in Chicago back in 2018.

“One of the things that I think is his big talent is his patience,” Staley told me Monday morning. “He doesn’t chase sacks. He put his fingers close together. He’d come off the sideline when we were together in 2018—I’m close. He’s so quiet, humble, but he’s like, I’m close. It’s funny. The first three weeks, I feel like he’s played at a really high level. He’s in great shape. I went on the plane after the Minnesota game and I went up to the front because I thought he played really good in the game.

“I just gave him that two fingers together—close.”

Mack had a career day in Week 4 against the team that drafted him No. 5 in 2014.

Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Against the Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Week 4, Mack was close no more.

He sacked Las Vegas rookie Aidan O’Connell six times—falling one short of Derrick Thomas’s all-time single-game record. And in the process, Mack showed, again, what kind of player he is, even if he’s sometimes now lost in the conversation of the best players of his generation.

Now, no one should get that twisted. He knows how good he is.

“I mean, I feel like I always can have that type of game,” he told me from the winning locker room Sunday night. “It just depends on what the situation is.”

Clearly, for some reasons Mack could explain, and some he couldn’t, the right one arose against the Raiders, giving the guy who doesn’t need to tell you how good he is a chance to show everyone one more time. And even better, he did it on a day when the Chargers needed his best—with his all-everything bookend, Joey Bosa, on the shelf.

“In our room, man, we know we got guys that can step up, whether it’s myself or whether it’s Joey or whether it’s Chris [Rumph II], we all got to be ready,” Mack says. “Even our practice squad guys like Andrew [Farmer]. Andrew was able to step up today and get some plays. We don’t want there to be a drop-off. Whoever it is, Tuli [Tuipulotu] stepping up huge, Chris stepping up huge, it’s always expected in our room.”

He was deflecting credit, of course. Which is fine. Because no one needed an explainer of how outrageous what he did to the Raiders was.

But to contextualize just what Mack did Sunday in helping the Chargers stay within a game of the Chiefs in the AFC West, I figured we’d have the man himself take us through each of his six sacks. So away we go …

Sack 1

Situation: Third-and-7, ball at Raiders’ 28.
Time: 9:22 left in the first quarter.
Score: Chargers 7, Raiders 0.
Result: Seven-yard sack of O’Connell.
Mack: “I had Tuli on the inside. I was able to work with him this week a little bit. He was able to get high on his rush, and I just wrapped him. The coverage was good, and the ball was still in the quarterback’s hands and I was able to get there.”

Sack 2

Situation: Second-and-6, ball at Raiders’ 48.
Time: 5:21 left in the second quarter.
Score: Chargers 17, Raiders 7.
Result: Seven-yard strip sack of O’Connell (Austin Johnson recovered for the Chargers).
Mack: “I was able to make a move on the left tackle; I think it was power. I knew it was going to be a play-action pass. I was able to win to the inside on my power, and the ball just appeared in front of the quarterback, I guess … I’ll have to look.”

Sack 3

Situation: First-and-10, ball at Raiders’ 25.
Time: 15:00 left in the third quarter.
Score: Chargers 24, Raiders 7.
Result: Six-yard strip sack of O’Connell (Vegas recovered).
Mack: “I beat the right tackle, then dipped around, and I was able to get there again.”

Sack 4

Situation: Third-and-6, ball at Raiders’ 29.
Time: 13:10 left in the third quarter.
Score: Chargers 24, Raiders 7.
Result: Four-yard sack of O’Connell.
Mack: “I don’t remember [laughs].”

Sack 5

Situation: Second-and-10, ball at Raiders’ 48.
Time: 10:39 left in the third quarter.
Score: Chargers 24, Raiders 7.
Result: Nine-yard sack of O’Connell.
Mack: “I feel like I hit the running back. Got a hit call, hit the running back, and he still held on to it. I know some guys were in his face and I was able to get there.”

Sack 6

Situation: Second-and-25, ball at Chargers’ 33.
Time: 12:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Score: Chargers 24, Raiders 10
Result: Nine-yard sack of O’Connell.
Mack: “I remember coming through off a chip and beating the right tackle to the outside again.”

And to me, the fact that there was actually one he couldn’t recall—the fourth of six—speaks to the sort of day he had.

What Staley, for his part, will remember is seeing Mack do LeBron James’s silencer as a sack dance, which was a signal to the coach that the 30-something quarterback-terrorizer was having the kind of fun playing he did all those years ago when the two were first together.

“There’s that spirit that I remember in 2018 where he’s kind of larger than life,” Staley says. “When he came to Chicago, this guy was larger than life now. I saw him healthy. There are little things that I can observe, like his rush angle and his get-off. It’s the Khalil Mack that everybody remembers in the highlight videos. Whether he was in Oakland or Chicago, it was that same get-off. It was that same attack, approach and then the playmaking.”

And the same guy, too, who’ll remember what the team did first and, along those lines, one thing Mack absolutely could recall was Staley’s going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Chargers’ 34 with 3:34 to try to close the game out. As Mack took it, it was the same situation that played out a week earlier, in Minnesota, when he was awfully close an awful lot, where the coach had enough faith in his defense to protect a short field to roll the dice with his offense.

In this case, Mack and his crew rewarded that faith six plays later with a game-sealing pick.

“We ridin’,” Mack says. “We ridin’ with our coach. We ridin’ with the offense, whether they get it or not. We like it when the game comes down to us and guys were able to step up in those situations. When Zont [Asante Samuel Jr.] got that pick, that was huge.”

So, too, was Mack’s play, as it always has been, and, Staley hopes, as it will be remembered in a historical context.

During our conversation, Staley reminded me he had the context of having coached Aaron Donald and Von Miller, too. And where Staley knows those guys are regarded as surefire Hall of Famers, he thinks Mack should be seen in that light, too.

“I just know that if Von’s a Hall of Famer, Khalil Mack’s a Hall of Famer,” Staley says. “That’s just the easiest comparison. If Von’s going in the Hall first ballot, so is Khalil.”

Watching him Sunday, it’s hard to argue.