Quarterback sack

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Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers getting sacked by Seattle defensive end Patrick Kerney.

In American football and Canadian football, a sack occurs when the quarterback (or another offensive player acting as a passer) is tackled behind the line of scrimmage before he can throw a forward pass, when the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage in the "pocket" and his intent is unclear, or when a passer runs out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage due to defensive pressure.[1] This often occurs if the opposing team's defensive line, linebackers or defensive backs are able to apply pass pressure to quickly get past blocking players of the offensive team (the quarterback's protection), or if the quarterback is unable to find a back to hand the ball off to or an available eligible receiver (including wide receivers, running backs and tight ends) to catch the ball, allowing the defense a longer opportunity to tackle the quarterback. A quarterback that is pressured but avoids a sack can still be aversely affected by being forced to hurry.

In the National Football League (NFL), it is possible to record a sack for zero yards. The QB must pass the statistical line of scrimmage to avoid the sack. A sack is also credited when a defender causes the quarterback to fumble and the defending team recovers the ball behind or at the line of scrimmage. If a sack is done when the quarterback is in his own end zone, it results in a safety and the defending team is awarded two points.


To be considered a sack the quarterback must intend to throw a forward pass. If the play is designed for the quarterback to rush (run) the ball, any loss is subtracted from the quarterback's rushing total (and the play is ruled a Tackle-for-loss as opposed to a sack). If the quarterback's intent is not obvious, statisticians use certain criteria, such as the offensive line blocking scheme, to decide. Unique situations where a loss reduces a quarterback's rushing total (not a sack) are "kneel downs" (used to run time off the game clock).

A player will receive credit for half of a sack when multiple players contribute to the sacking of a quarterback, even if more than two players contributed.

In the NFL yards lost on the play are added as negative yardage to the team's passing totals; however, the quarterback's individual passing total stats remains unchanged.[2] NCAA continues to subtract sack yardage from individual rushing totals.


The term "sack" was first coined by Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones in the 1960s, who felt that a sack devastated the offense in the same way that a city was devastated when it was sacked.[3]

Prior to "sack", the term "dump" was often used, and the NFL's statistical office recorded all sacks under "dumping the passer".[4]

The NFL only began to keep track of times passers lost yardage in 1961[5] and no credit was given to the defensive player responsible until 1982.[6]

Pass pressure[edit]

Of all forms of defensive pressure against the opposition's passer, sacks provide the most immediate impact by ending the offensive play.[7] However, quarterbacks sometimes avoid a sack by throwing an Incomplete pass or risking an interception.[8] According to Football Outsiders, a quarterback hurry is the most common form of pass pressure. In the 2009 NFL season, there were 1,106 sacks and 3,268 hurries, and a hurried quarterback generally averaged fewer yards per pass play compared to the average pass play.[7]



  • NFL Most Consecutive Games committing a sack: 69 Tampa Bay, 1999-2003
  • NFL Super Bowl Most sacks, career, 4.5 (sacks compiled since XVII)
  • Official in NFL since 1982

*Deacon Jones had 26 sacks in 14 games in the 1967 season, and 24 sacks in 14 games in the 1968 season. However, as sacks were not officially recorded by the NFL at that point, Michael Strahan is attributed the single season record.

**Al "Bubba" Baker had 23 sacks in his rookie 1978 season. However, as sacks were not officially recorded by the NFL at that point, Jevon Kearse is attributed the single season rookie record.

***L.C. Greenwood had 4 sacks in Super Bowl X. [12] However, as sacks were not officially recorded by the NFL at that point, Reggie White and Darnell Dockett are attributed the Super Bowl record "Most sacks, single game" (3).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] 2011 Football Statisticians Manual, p. 17.
  2. ^ http://www.nflgsis.com/gsis/documentation/stadiumguides/guide_for_statisticians.pdf
  3. ^ "Jones, NFL coiner of 'sack the quarterback,' dies at 74". CNN. June 4, 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "Sack or Dump: To Quarterback It's All Downhill". The Milwaukee Journal. November 7, 1975. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  5. ^ NFL Records
  6. ^ a b NFL Records
  7. ^ a b Schatz, Aaron (June 1, 2010). "Examining the art of the hurry". ESPN.com. Retrieved February 2, 2014. (subscription required)
  8. ^ Long, Howie; Czarnecki, John (2011). "Football For Dummies". John Wiley & Sons. p. 166. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  9. ^ NFL Career Sacked Leaders - Pro-Football-Reference.com
  10. ^ NFL Single-Season Sacked Leaders - Pro-Football-Reference.com
  11. ^ NFL Single Game Sacked Leaders - Pro-Football-Reference.com
  12. ^ "Super Bowl X play-by-play". USA TODAY. January 11, 2002. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 

External links[edit]

  • Sack Story, an article describing the controversy over the sack record