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Sacks in NFL down 108 so far from last season

November 14, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Sack dances have gotten more aggressive this year, with mock selfies from J.J. Watt, and two players getting so excited that they injured themselves celebrating taking down the quarterback.

Maybe it’s because sacks are getting rarer.

Teams are passing more than ever, but that hasn’t led to more sacks. Through Week 10, the league has 670 sacks, a drop of 108 from the same point last season, according to STATS.

Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton says he’s sure every team is trying to figure out where the sacks have gone.

“I don’t know what the reason is, but that’s a dramatic number of sacks to be down for the year,” Horton said. “You’ve got to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback.”

Blame offenses designed so quarterbacks get rid of the ball even faster. That certainly helps Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees avoid defenders who are faster than ever. The NFL also has cracked down on illegal contact and holding, freeing up receivers from grabby defensive backs away from the line of scrimmage.

The drop caught Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz by surprise. His Bills added five sacks to their NFL-best 34 in Thursday night’s loss at Miami with Marcell Dareus leading defensive linemen with a career-best 10 by himself. Schwartz sees quarterbacks getting better every year. The three-step drop allowing quarterbacks to quickly throw the ball cutting the time for defensive players to even touch the passer.

“Because of the tightening of the defensive holding and illegal contacts, guys can break open faster,” Schwartz said. “And if you’re a quarterback and you’re trying to throw quick and you’re not waiting for a guy that’s getting tugged and pulled, then you’re not susceptible to sacks more often.”

Teams still are piling up sacks in bunches, helping disguise this season’s sudden drop. Philadelphia got to Cam Newton nine times Monday night, and St. Louis sacked San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick eight times on Nov. 2 after the Rams had only six combined through seven games. Buffalo got six last week against Kansas City.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid joked they didn’t help the sack totals, and he credits quarterbacks getting the ball out quicker.

“And it’s tough, it’s tough,” Reid said. “If you can force a quarterback into hitches because of the coverage on the outside, it gives the defensive linemen a better chance of getting home. On three-step drops, guys are getting it out. You saw Kyle (Orton). If he didn’t have it, he was throwing it out of bounds. So he wasn’t going to hang onto the ball.”

Throwing the ball away doesn’t always work. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was sacked five times in the season opener only to be sacked just twice over the next six games before breaking his collarbone. But the quarterback intercepted only twice all of 2013 already had been picked off 10 times this season.

Only nine NFL teams had more sacks through the first eight games this season compared to the same point in 2013. Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston leads the NFL and already has more sacks by himself (12) than Oakland (eight) and Atlanta (11).

“Yeah, he does a pretty good job,” Reid said. “Glad he’s on our team.”

Arizona (8-1) and Seattle (6-3) had the biggest drop in sacks with both NFC West teams down 15 at the midpoint from last season. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the effect of a pass rush matters most.

“But sacks, that’s kind of the big marker,” Carroll said. “I wish we had more. I like the numbers when they’re up there and you just have more chances to get the ball out when you’re knocking guys to the ground getting them. We were really close, we could have had three or four easy. I think Cliff (Avril) had five QB hits in the game with really active rushing but just didn’t get him on the ground.”

To Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, the drop is a result of more NFL offenses using the spread offense popular in college. That system wants quarterbacks making quick decisions and throwing quickly. That makes playing great defense relative to the other 31 NFL teams rank, and Tomlin said playing better still allows a team to distinguish itself. Pittsburgh is tied for 18th with 12 fewer sacks than league leader Buffalo through Week 10.

“I just think the game of football is continually evolving, and if you view it with that frame of reference, you have an opportunity to ward off frustration,” Tomlin said.


AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia and AP Sports Writers John Wawrow in Buffalo; Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Missouri; Tim Booth in Renton, Washington; and Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.



AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker