Most Sacks In A Football Game

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The NFL doesn’t have the same track record with stat-taking as the MBL (baseball, folks). It wasn’t until 1982 that they started keeping official sack statistics. Consequently, the “official” record holders and reality can sometimes be at odds with each other. All of which makes winning quiz nights at bars, pubs, and church halls all the more challenging. But when has anything in football ever been simple?

The Philadelphia Eagles hold the unofficial NFL record for the most sacks by a team. On October 26, 1952, they sacked the Giants fourteen times. Derrick Thomas is the proud official holder of the most sacks made by one player. The Kansas City Chiefs player sacked the Seattle Seahawks seven times.

To a casual football observer, it looks like players are getting sacked nearly every play. But a sack isn’t the same as a standard tackle. When gaining yardage, a player getting dragged down is a tackle. When brought down in the backfield, it is a sack or a tackle for loss. But it is only a sack if the quarterback was planning to pass the ball rather than implement a running play. Yes, NFL keeps it complicated.

Most Sacks In A Football Game By A Team

The Philadelphia Eagles are the unofficial record holders for most sacks made by a single team during a game. They achieved this feat on October 26, 1952, sacking the giants fourteen times.

Oddly enough, it is the New York Giants that have the official record. On September 30, 2007, they sacked the Philadelphia Eagles twelve times. It’s almost like the two teams have a feud.

However, it must be said that the Giants share their twelve sacks with three other teams. But only one of those games is on the official sack record books:

  • Dallas Cowboys (December 16, 1984, November 20, 1966)
  • Chicago Bears (December 17, 1961, November 20, 1960)
  • St. Louis Cardinals (October 26, 1980)

Most Sacks In A Football Game By A Player

Derrick Thomas holds the NFL record for most sacks in a single game. Thomas had been playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and sacked the Seattle Seahawks seven times on November 11, 1990. He is also tied for the second highest number of sacks with two others, a feat he accomplished in 1998 against the Raiders.

It was only his second year playing for the NFL when he made the record books. Nor was he a slouch in 1989 during his first professional year on the field, being named the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year. He played for eleven seasons before dying after a tragic car accident in 2000. The Chiefs retired his number, 58.

Most Sacks Made By A Player For An NFL Season

Michael Strahan had the official NFL record for a single season. He made 22.5 in 2001 (the .5 sack means at least one other player assisted in the takedown). He is tied with T.J. Watt, who might have broken Strahan’s record if he hadn’t missed two games due to injury, playing only 15 of 17.

However, it is Al Baker that holds the unofficial record. In 1978, Baker made 23 sacks over the course of a 16-game season. It was his rookie year. Despite not holding the official record, his 23 sacks are still held up as the number to beat.

Baker, nicknamed “Bubba,” was deeply moved when Pro Football Reference posted his stats on their site. The living legend played 181 games over the course of 13 seasons for the NFL. He began his career with the Detroit Lions and later played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, and the Minnesota Vikings. He played in the Pro Bowl three times.

Most Sacks Made In An NFL Career

Bruce Smith holds the NFL career record for most sacks. He made 200 of them between 1985-2003. Smith’s record holds both in the years before official recording and after. His greatest number of sacks in a single season was 19.

Bruce Smith began with the Buffalo Bills and finished his career with the Washington Redskins. Despite a legendary career, the man never played in a Super Bowl game. However, he did play in the Pro Bowl numerous times.

Reggie White is the only NFL player to come close to Smith’s accomplishment, with 198 sacks made between 1985 – 2000. He made over ten sacks for nine consecutive seasons. The Super Bowl Champion began his career for the Memphis Showboats. White went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, and the Carolina Panthers.

Most Sacks Made By An NFL Rookie

Leslie O’Neal holds the official record for most sacks made by an NFL rookie, with 12.5. He was a first-round pick by the Sand Diego Chargers in 1986. Later that year, on November 16, he sacked the Cowboys five times over the course of the game. O’Neal’s career sack high was 17, made in 1992. His career sack total was 132.5.

O’Neal played for 13 years as a defensive end and an outside linebacker. After the San Diego Chargers, he played for the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.

Of course, O’Neal’s record does not stand up to Al Baker’s official rookie record for 23 sacks.

Most Sacks Made By A Team During A Super Bowl Game

Four teams are tied for the NFL record for most sacks in a Super Bowl game, three official and one unofficially. Each team made seven sacks.

  • Los Angeles Rams (February 13, 2022, Won)
  • Denver Broncos (February 7, 2016, Won)
  • Chicago Bears (January 26, 1986, Won)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (January 18, 1976, Won)

Most Sacks Made By A Player During A Super Bowl Game

Four players are tied for most sacks in a Super Bowl, with three each.

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Sack stats are confusing since they only began being recorded properly in 1982. There is also a grey area between a sack and a tackle for loss. Nonetheless, Al Baker, Bruce Smith, and Derrick Thomas are respected as the men with the sack numbers to beat.


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