“I’m going to go out there and give it my best. I’m going to give Strahan a run for his money and, if it happens, thank God it happened. If it doesn’t, it’s not going to take away from my season.” - Jared Allen.
For much of the 2011 season, it looked as though at least one and as many as three or four pass rushers were going to make a run at Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5.
Ultimately, it looks as though Strahan’s record will survive another year, as league-leader Jared Allen is still four sacks shy of the mark with only one game remaining. But that doesn’t mean history won’t (sort of) be made Sunday, because as many as three players might hit the 20-sack plateau.
Since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, only seven NFL players have taken down an opposing quarterback 20-plus times in a single season. But at 18.5, Allen is just a sack and a half away. Jason Babin and DeMarcus Ware are each two sacks short of 20, at 18.
Ware, who had 20 sacks in 2008, would become the first player in NFL history to reach that number twice.
While it would be easy to point to the league’s increased emphasis on passing as a reason for such a development, it should be noted that none of the six best sack seasons in league history took place in the last decade. Strahan had 22.5 in 2001, Mark Gastineau had 22 in 1984, Reggie White had 21 in 1987, Chris Doleman had 21 in 1989, Lawrence Taylor had 20.5 in 1986 and Derrick Thomas had 20 in 1990.
And contrary to popular belief, sacks aren’t more common now than they were in previous years. The average NFL game this year has had 4.6 sacks, a number which ranks only 16th of the 30 seasons that have been played since the NFL started counting sacks on an official basis.
So don’t underrate what might take place in Minnesota, Philadelphia and New Jersey Sunday.
To hit Strahan’s 22.5- mark, Allen would need four sacks against the Bears, something he hasn’t done since 2009. But he’d only need a sack and a half to hit 20, and he’s accomplished that feat five times in 15 games. Chicago has given up 42 sacks, which is the sixth-highest total in the league. That said, Josh McCown wasn’t sacked once Monday night in Green Bay.
Ware might have more home-run sack ability than anyone else in the league, but the Giants have only surrendered 26 of them all season. He’ll need two sacks to get back to 20 — something he’s done five times already in 2011.
And Babin might be the hottest pass rusher in the league. He already has eight sacks in the month of December and goes up against a Washington team that has surrendered 40 on the year. He’ll also need two to reach the 20 mark Sunday.
That trio already has combined for more sacks in a season than any other group of three players in the last 20 years. If they have strong enough performances Sunday, they might combine for 59-plus sacks this season, which would be the highest combined total of three players in a single season in NFL history.