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Even after bye week, Cowboys still leading NFL in sacks

Dallas could possibly threaten the all-time record for team sacks in season if things go very well in the second half of the season.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the 2022 Cowboys are very good at getting to opposing quarterbacks. Despite already having their bye week, Dallas is still leading the league in team sacks so far this season. Where does this torrid pace put them in relation to the NFL’s all-time record?

The Cowboys have 33 total sacks after eight games. They are, of course, led by Micah Parsons with eight sacks and getting good work from Dorance Armstrong with five, four each from DeMarcus Lawrence and Dante Fowler Jr., and then a smattering of contributions from various other defenders.

Several other teams are near Dallas in total production. The Patriots have 32 sacks, the Bucs have 29, and the Ravens and Seahawks each have 27. But all of these teams have also played their ninth game already this season, making the Cowboys’ spot at the top of the list all the more impressive.

What Dallas’ defense has accomplished in this area is especially exceptional when you consider the issues on the other side of the ball. Five weeks of conservative offense during Dak Prescott’s injury made life much harder for the defense. But even without a lot of big leads to help put their opponents into desperation mode, this defense still kept making big plays and laid the foundation for the Cowboys’ shocking 6-2 start to the season.

If you thought these first eight games were something, the next nine could be really explosive! Now that Prescott has returned and other offensive pieces are on the way, balance is on its way back for the Cowboys. If this defense could produce the way it has without the help, imagine what it can do going forward.

The record for most team sacks in a season has stood for almost 40 years. The 1984 Chicago Bears posted 72 sacks in 16 games. Though still a year away from Super Bowl shuffling, this marked the beginning of “da’ Bears” great run in the 80s that arguably set the gold standard for defensive play in the NFL.

Can the 2022 Cowboys threaten this mark? Well, if they have 33 sacks after eight games, doubling that over the next eight takes you to 66. And now with a 17th game to help them, it’s at least a semi-plausible proposition.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas would need 40 more sacks this year, about 4.5 per game, to set the new record. No, they probably won’t match the average production of the ‘84 Bears. But the NFL doesn’t seem interested in the “per-game” asterisks on historical stats, so why should we worry about it?

The Cowboys have been averaging 4.1 sacks per game to get to their current mark. While we’ve talked about how offensive improvement could make the defense even more dangerous, there’s a double-edged sword here that might actually hurt their statistical production.

Yes, more points from the offense will put opponents in worse positions. The more other teams are having to throw and press, the better for the pass rushers. But increased offensive efficiency for Dallas also means longer drives, more time of possession, and fewer total reps for the defense.

So while the defense could become even better on a per-play basis, the total number of plays will likely go down. That’s fewer opportunities for Parsons and others to go get the quarterback, which could actually lower, or at least plateau, the sack rate.

Obviously, the all-time sack record is hardly the goal that Cowboys fans or players are worried about this year. We’re more concerned about duplicating the work of the Cowboys of the 90s, not the Bears of the 80s.

Still, what Dan Quinn’s defense has done so far in 2022 is worthy of heavy applause. It’s the biggest reason that the Cowboys are not only still alive but thriving despite Prescott’s absence, and it’s clearly on pace to be among the league’s best pass-rushing performances of all time.

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