When asked earlier this season if he had a shot at the season sacks record, DeMarcus Ware quite innocently asked what that number might be. Pretty tough to fathom that one of the most dominant pass rushers in the league has no clue what the highest total ever is, but that's just the way he is. Ware is a unique star in the NFL in the fact that he wasn't that big a fan of the sport growing up, choosing instead to focus on basketball. He isn't as familiar with the history of the sport as one might think, particularly with what all the records are. So when he asks what the all-time season sack record is, he genuinely doesn't know.
So when told the record is 22.5 sacks, Ware's response is immediate.
'I'll beat it."
By the way, he said that in the preseason.
Through fourteen games DeMarcus Ware leads the league with 19 sacks, just 3.5 shy of tying Michael Strahan's record set back in 2001. Yet Ware being within reach of the record with two games remaining is even more impressive considering that he is much, much more than just a pass rusher.
Compared to the top ten players leading the league in sacks, Ware is head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to total and solo tackles (with the exception of James Harrison, but more on that later). What makes him stand out above the rest is that he is so dominant against the run as well. As an outside linebacker Ware's responsibilities also call upon him to drop back into pass coverage on a regular basis, something other sack leaders aren't asked to do. So considering that when other defensive ends are rushing the passer every time he goes back to pass, it's amazing that Ware leads them all even though some of time he's 10 yards off the line of scrimmage.
His ability to hold his edge and read a run play, as well as his speed and ability to run down a play from the backside, has made him into one of the most complete defensive players in the NFL. And here he sits, well within reach of a coveted NFL record with two games to go.
The all-time sack records is a tattered mess. The NFL did not recognize a sack as an official stat until 1982, and does not count the impressive numbers put up by defensive players before then (Harvey Martin holds the team record for sacks with 23, in 1977). Marc Gastineau established the official record of 22 sacks in 1984, a number that was seemingly unreachable. Unreachable that is, until Michael Strahan and a short conversation with Brett Favre.
In the final game of the 2001 season against Green Bay Strahan was just a sack shy of breaking Gastineau's record, but he never came close to Favre during the blowout loss. With less than three minutes remaining in the season, Favre and Strahan had a brief conversation on the field. The next play, Favre rolls out and then falls at Strahan's feet for an easy, record breaking sack.
How many people think that if Ware is one shy in the final game that Donovan McNabb will lie down for the record?
When Ware breaks this record (and I strongly believe he will), he would have earned it with hard work and rigorous discipline. Compared to other pure pass rushers in the league he does so much more than go after the quarterback. Game after game Ware is chasing down running backs, stringing plays out wide, plugging lanes or dropping back in pass coverage. And he does this nearly every single play against double and triple teams. No one lays down for Ware,and he earns every thing he gets.
With an NFL record in sacks for the year, Ware should be a sure thing for DPOY honors, if not in the running for MVP. Yet there is one player out there that this year is rivaling Ware in defensive domination: James Harrison.
Ware and Harrison have eerily similar numbers and both are as diverse as they are devastating to opposing quarterbacks. Harrison has a lead in total tackles and forced fumbles and leads the league's number one ranked defense. Yet his sack totals have waned the past few weeks, while Ware has just started to rev it up.
At the beginning of the season when asked about setting the record for consecutive games with a sack, Ware stated that to truly be thought of as an elite pass rusher he wanted to have a couple of three sack games. Since saying that, Ware has done that three times.
Another one would be great.
While looking up numbers for this post I came across the stats of some of the greatest pass rushers in league history, and thought it would be interesting to see how Ware compares to them through their first 4 full years in the league.
Impressive. Especially considering Ware still has two games remaining in his 4th season.
Stats disclaimer: The numbers used for this article come from NFL.com and STATS.com. When reading articles about defensive players around the internet you may notice that the numbers of tackles credited for each player varies. This is due to the fact that the team uses their own stats determined by coaches tape, and unfortunately the public does not have direct access to these numbers. Also, don't forget to send any questions and comments to the BTB official inbox.