A few years ago, Mike Tanier wrote a great column on the 1986 Eagles, the team that obliterated the record for sacks allowed with 104. But since Philadelphia had 53 sacks of their own (having Reggie White tends to help), Philadelphia was able to pull into a tie for worst sack differential of all time. That honor of -51 is shared with the 1961 Minnesota Vikings, an expansion team led by our good pal Fran Tarkenton. Minnesota’s defense recorded an absurdly low 16 sacks that season (the 14-team league average, including Minnesota, was 38), and led the league by a substantial margin with 67 sacks, most of them attributed to Tarkenton. Back then, expansion teams were not very good, although the team would turn things around soon.
What about the teams with the best sack differential? Four teams have recorded 40 or more sacks than they’ve allowed.
- In 1991, Washington fielded one of the all-time great NFL teams. Mark Rypien was sacked just seven times, with Jeff Rutledge taking two more sacks. Those are ridiculous numbers, but the team also tied for third with 50 sacks. That +41 differential is the fourth best ever.
- The Dome Patrol may have been the greatest set of 3-4 linebackers ever fielded, and in 1992, all four linebackers (Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Vaughan Johnson, and Sam Mills) made the Pro Bowl. In addition, Wayne Martin led the team with 15.5 sacks. New Orleans led the league in sacks with 57, but also ranked first in sacks allowed with just 15 (all on Bobby Hebert).
- The 2006 Ravens aren’t as famous as their six years older brother, even though by one method, Baltimore’s defense that year was the third best scoring defense ever. The ’06 team ranked second in both defensive sacks (60) and offensive sacks (17); this was Steve McNair’s first year in Baltimore, and the team finished 13-3. And hey, those Ravens had a pretty good set of linebackers, too, ranking as the top set of 4-3 linebackers (Adalius Thomas, Ray Lewis, and Bart Scott, all in their primes) in that linked study. Terrell Suggs had 9.5 sacks, Haloti Ngata was a rookie, and Trevor Pryce led the way with 13.0 sacks.
But one team sacked opposing quarterbacks forty-four more times than they allowed their own quarterback to be taken down. The ’84, ’85, and ’86 Bears were at +36, +21, and +38, respectively. And the 1992 Eagles were at -9, so you’re going to have to put on your thinking hats for this one.
Alright, fess up: did you get it? After which hint?