Quarterback sack

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 (also called a pass rush) 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.

Performing a sack is advantageous for the defending team as the offense loses a down, and the line of scrimmage retreats several yards.[2] Even better for the defense is a sack causing the quarterback to fumble the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage; this is also known as a strip sack and can result in a turnover if the defense manages to obtain the ball. A quarterback that is pressured but avoids a sack can still be adversely 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. If a passer is sacked in his own end zone, the result is a safety and the defending team is awarded two points, unless the football is fumbled and either recovered in the end zone by the defense for a touchdown or recovered by either team outside the end zone.

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

Statistical record rules

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).

Everson Griffen Aaron Rodgers sack
Rodgers sacked by Everson Griffen.

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.[3] NCAA continues to subtract sack yardage from individual rushing totals.


Cougars on offense at BYU at Air Force 2010-09-11
A BYU quarterback being sacked by Air Force.

The term "sack" was first popularized 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.[4]

According to former NFL coach Marv Levy, it was Washington Redskins coach George Allen who actually coined the term when referring to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton.[5] Allen purportedly stated before a game, "Before we play those Dallas Cowboys, we’re going to take that Morton salt and pour him into a sack."

Prior to "sack", the term "dump" was often used, and the NFL's statistical office recorded all sacks under "dumping the passer".[2]

The NFL only began to keep track of times passers lost yardage in 1961[6] and no credit was given to the defensive player responsible until 1982.[7] Researcher John Turney of the Pro Football Researchers Association estimated that Jones recorded 173½ sacks in his career.[8]

Controversial NFL rule changes made for the 2018 season prohibit tacklers landing on the quarterback after making a sack, with the punishment being a roughing the passer penalty.[9]

Pass pressure

Nate Longshore under pressure AFB 071231-F-7061J-010.JPEG
A quarterback under pressure.

Of all forms of defensive pressure against the opposition's passer, sacks provide the most immediate impact by ending the offensive play.[10] However, quarterbacks sometimes avoid a sack by throwing an incomplete pass or risking an interception.[11] 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.[10]

NFL Records

These records are from 1982 onwards, the year the NFL started officially recording sacks.[7]

  • NFL Super Bowl most sacks, career (sacks compiled since XVII)

See also


  1. ^ 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 credited with the single-season record.
  2. ^ 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 credited with the single-season rookie record.
  3. ^ L. C. Greenwood had 4 sacks in Super Bowl X.[16] However, as sacks were not officially recorded by the NFL at that point, Reggie White, Darnell Dockett, Kony Ealy, and Grady Jarrett are credited with the Super Bowl record for most sacks in a single game (3).


  1. ^ "2011 Football Statisticians Manual, p. 17" (PDF). NCAA. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Sack or Dump: To Quarterback It's All Downhill". The Milwaukee Journal. November 7, 1975. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  3. ^ http://www.nflgsis.com/gsis/documentation/stadiumguides/guide_for_statisticians.pdf
  4. ^ "Jones, NFL coiner of 'sack the quarterback,' dies at 74". CNN. June 4, 2013. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  5. ^ http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/06/16/levy-explains-how-deacon-jones-came-up-with-sack/
  6. ^ NFL Records
  7. ^ a b NFL Records
  8. ^ Branch, John (November 4, 2006). "Unofficially, Sack Record Doesn't Add Up". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 3, 2015.
  9. ^ "The NFL's controversial new roughing the passer rule, explained in a 3-minute read". SBNation.com. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
  10. ^ a b Schatz, Aaron (June 1, 2010). "Examining the art of the hurry". ESPN.com. Retrieved February 2, 2014.(subscription required)
  11. ^ Long, Howie; Czarnecki, John (2011). "Football For Dummies". John Wiley & Sons. p. 166. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  12. ^ Edholm, Eric (December 28, 2015). "J.J. Watt becomes only two-time 20-sack player, does so on safety". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  13. ^ NFL Career Sacked Leaders – Pro-Football-Reference.com
  14. ^ NFL Single-Season Sacked Leaders – Pro-Football-Reference.com
  15. ^ NFL Single Game Sacked Leaders – Pro-Football-Reference.com
  16. ^ "Super Bowl X play-by-play". USA TODAY. January 11, 2002. Retrieved April 5, 2013.

External links

1947 Harbor Bowl

The 1947 Harbor Bowl was an American college football bowl game played on January 1, 1947 at Balboa Stadium in San Diego, California. The game pitted the New Mexico Lobos and the Montana State Bobcats. This was the inaugural Harbor Bowl game played.

Abdul Hodge

Abdul Raheeda Hodge (born September 9, 1983) is a former American football linebacker. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played college football at Iowa.

Alondra Johnson

Alondra Johnson (born July 22, 1965) was a Canadian Football League linebacker who played sixteen seasons in the CFL, mainly for the Calgary Stampeders. Johnson was a three-time All Star and won Grey Cups with Calgary in 1992, 1998 and 2001. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Johnson first became a Stampeder back in 1991, playing the next 13 seasons as what many referred to as the 'heart of the Stampeder defence'. After being granted free agency in February 1991 from the B.C. Lions, Johnson signed with the Stampeders the same month and spent 13 years with the Stamps, winning three Grey Cup championship rings (1992, 1998, and 2001) and playing in three other Grey Cup finals.

From his linebacker spot, he finished with 1,095 tackles (second all-time in CFL history) and 83 special teams tackles for a grand total of 1,178 in 248 games. Johnson also had 45 quarterback sacks for 333 yards, 43 tackles for a total loss of 113 yards, 16 fumble recoveries with three for touchdowns, eight forced fumbles, 17 interceptions (one for a TD), and 10 pass knockdowns.

In 19 post-season games, Johnson registered 83 tackles and seven special team tackles for a total of 90, two QB sacks for 22 yards, seven tackles for a loss of eight yards, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one pass knockdown.

In six Grey Cups, Johnson had 27 total tackles, a Grey Cup record, with one quarterback sack for 13 yards in the 2001 game and two tackles for loss in the 1991 final. In the 1998 Grey Cup victory, 26-24 over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, he set the CFL record for the most defensive tackles in a Grey Cup game with eight. That 1998 season a total of 87 tackles spurred him to the Norm Freidgate Trophy as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the West Division, as well as being named a West Division and CFL All-Star.

He was also a CFL All-Star in 1995, 1998 and 2000, a West Division All-Star also in 1991, 1992, 1997, 1998 and 2000, and a North All-Star in 1995. Johnson was also the first CFL player to score on a two-point conversion in 1989.

In 2001 and 2002, he received the Stampeder President's Ring Award, voted by his teammates for his inspiration on and off the field.

In 2005, Johnson was inducted into the WTSU Hall of Champions.In 2009, Johnson was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

In 2010, Johnson was inducted to the Calgary Stampeders Wall of Fame.

Anthony Johnson (defensive lineman)

Anthony Johnson (born January 24, 1993) is an American football defensive end for the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). He played college football at LSU. During his high school football career at O. Perry Walker High School in New Orleans, Johnson broke the Louisiana career quarterback sack record with 67.5 sacks.

Brett Romberg

Brett Christopher Romberg (born October 10, 1979) is a former American football center who last played for the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Miami, earned consensus All-American honors, and was recognized as the outstanding college center by receiving the Dave Rimmington Award. He was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2003, and has also played for the St. Louis Rams.

Calvin Tiggle

Calvin Bernard Tiggle (born November 10, 1968), is a former award-winning linebacker in the Canadian Football League.

After graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology (playing with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets) he played two seasons (1991 and 1992) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL, where in 24 games he recorded one quarterback sack.

He came to Canada in 1994, playing his first of 4 seasons with the Toronto Argonauts. He was an all star in his first season, setting the team record with 129 tackles. He moved to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for 4 seasons in 1996, and was an all star in 1998 and 1999, also winning the CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award in 1999. He finished his career with Toronto in 2000 and 2001, where he was again an all star in 2000.

In 2004, he was issued a departure order to leave Canada after an Immigration Minister's permit to play football expired, and he had a run-in with the law (charges were dropped, but he has prior U.S. criminal convictions that had previously denied him entry into Canada twice before.)

Chris Ackie

Chris Ackie (born January 26, 1992) is a professional Canadian football linebacker for the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He played CIS football for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks from 2011 to 2014. He was drafted fourth overall by the Montreal Alouettes in the 2015 CFL Draft.

Jeff Knox Jr.

Jeff Knox Jr. (born February 22, 1992) is a professional Canadian football linebacker for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He made his professional debut in 2015 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders after going undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Leroy Thompson

Leroy Thompson (born January 23, 1971) is a former fullback/linebacker in the Arena Football League for 13 years. He has played for the Albany / Indiana Firebirds (1996–2004), the New Orleans VooDoo (2005) and the Columbus Destroyers (2006–2008). He played college football at Delaware State University where he was a first team Division I-AA All-American and holds all quarterback sack records. Played with the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL in 1996 and also with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL in 1994.

Mychal Sisson

Mychal Anthony Sisson (born October 1, 1988, in Indianapolis, Indiana) is an American football linebacker.

Sisson ranked second among the nation's freshmen (behind Oklahoma's Travis Lewis) with a team-leading 105 tackles (57 solo), including eight stops for loss and ½ quarterback sack, while breaking up three passes, forcing a fumble, and recovering two more, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He subsequently earned Sporting News′ Freshman All-American team honors.

Quarterback scramble

A quarterback scramble or scramble is an impromptu maneuver or run in American football and Canadian football by a quarterback. If a quarterback is under pressure by an opposing team's defense, he may run forward, backward, or laterally in an attempt to avoid being tackled behind the line of scrimmage—a quarterback sack. A scramble is not usually a designed play, but instead is the action of a quarterback to avoid being sacked by the defense or an improvised run forward to gain yardage if an opportunity presents itself.

Randy Chevrier

Randy Robert Chevrier (born June 6, 1976) is a former Canadian football long snapper in the Canadian Football League for the Edmonton Eskimos, Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders. He also was a member of the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals in the National Football League. He played college football at McGill University.

Roughing the passer

In gridiron football, roughing the passer refers to making contact with the passer (usually the quarterback) after the passer has released the ball from his hands. Touching the quarterback while he is in possession of the ball (attempting a quarterback sack) is a permitted act of defense. But once he releases the ball, defenders are not permitted to make contact with the quarterback unless carried to do so by momentum. Judgment over whether contact following release was the result of a violation or momentum is made by the referee on a case-by-case basis. If the defender then puts all of his weight on the passer at once he will also draw a penalty.Roughing the passer can also be called if the defender commits intimidating acts toward the passer, such as picking him up and stuffing him into the ground, or wrestling with him. It can also be called if the player who tackles the passer makes helmet to helmet contact.An exception to the roughing rule is where the quarterback rejoins a play after passing, such as in an attempt to block, recover a fumble, or tackle a defensive player who has gained possession of the ball. In this case, the quarterback is treated as any other player and may legally be contacted.

Russell Okung

Russell Okung ( oh-KUUNG; born October 7, 1988) is an American football offensive tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for Oklahoma State University, and was twice recognized as an All-American. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, and has also played for the Denver Broncos.

Ryan Kelly (American football)

Ryan Patrick Kelly (born May 30, 1993) is an American football center for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Alabama, and was drafted by the Colts in first round (18th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Shoot the gap

Shooting the gap is a term used in American football. To "shoot the gap," a defensive lineman will exploit the space between the offensive linemen during a pass rush. The defensive lineman is usually one of the defensive tackles. The gaps are given different letters depending on their distance from the center. The gaps between the center and the guard are known as the "A gaps", and the gaps between the guard and the tackle are known as the "B gaps". Shooting the gap requires the defensive lineman to turn his shoulders and get past the offensive line into the backfield by any means possible, usually by diving through the gap. The play is often used during a blitz, as the defense will try to rush past the offensive line in order to get to the quarterback and cause a quarterback sack.

Taylor Reed

Taylor Reed (born August 7, 1991) is a gridiron football linebacker in the Canadian Football League (CFL) who is currently a free agent. He played college football at Southern Methodist University. He has also been a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, New England Patriots, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Calgary Stampeders, Ottawa Redblacks, and Toronto Argonauts.

Will Sutton

William Sutton (born October 3, 1991) is an American football defensive tackle for the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He played college football at Arizona State.

As a member of the 2012 team, Sutton earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a 2012 College Football All-America Team selection. In high school, he led the undefeated 2008 Centennial High School California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) state championship football team in quarterback sacks. He is the son of Mickey Sutton.

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