Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

06 Feb 2009

After Change, Dockett Now Shares Sack Record

Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald aside, Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett looked as good as anyone on the losing side in the Super Bowl, providing a consistent disruptive force and coming up with two sacks.

Or so we thought.

After a review of the game, the NFL has credited Dockett with a third sack, tying him with Reggie White for the Super Bowl record.

(Ed. Note: Believe it or not, Dockett can thank Football Outsiders for his sack record. I noticed the 0-yard scramble when I was breaking the PBP down on Sunday night, and e-mailed my NFL contact about it. Technically, there is no such thing as a 0-yard scramble -- any pass play where a quarterback tries to run and does not gain yardage is a sack. Thus, the change... it was actually already reflected in Roethlisberger's stats when we did Quick Reads Monday. -- Aaron)

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 06 Feb 2009

21 comments, Last at 09 Feb 2009, 3:45pm by MJK


by Travis :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 12:13pm

The play they changed to a sack was Roethlisberger's overturned TD in the 1st quarter (Video).

Theoretically, I can understand how it could be called a sack (it's a QB run for no yards), but it's a dubious sack, especially since Roethlisberger advanced the ball from the 1-yard to the 1-foot line.

by Cols714 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 1:12pm

Didn't Troy Polamalu have a sack taken away from him even though he teckled the QB behind the line of scrimmage because they said the QB was trying to run? I think this was the SD playoff game, but I'm not too sure.

And Ben did advance the ball in that situation. Not that I care, but it seems odd to credit someone with a sack even though the QB got beyond the LOS.

by S :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 1:23pm

"Of course, it also gives Dockett more ammunition should he revive his quest to re-do his contract despite three years remaining. But that's a story (and hopefully, maybe it isn't a story this offseason) for another day."

I just found this very interesting wording given that it came from the team's official website.

by BillyB (not verified) :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 1:51pm

So every time a quarterback sneak fails to gain an entire yard, it is a sack? What if he only needs 1 inch for the first down, and he gets 2 inches? Is that a sack too?

I had also read that Polamalu's tackle behind the line of scrimmage (in the BAL game I believe) was not a sack because Flacco was trying to run. That one was ridiculous because there were many receivers running pass routes, and if Polamalu wasn't in his face, Flacco would have thrown it.

There is either a very convoluted explanation to all of this, or they system needs some fixing.

by Will :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 2:14pm

I doubt it. If it's 4th and inches, it's technically 4th and 1. Getting that first down counts as a one yard rush.


by tuluse :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 3:58pm

Can't a run also be ruled a "short gain."

by Travis :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 2:54pm

If the quarterback intends to run from the start of the play (e.g., a sneak or draw), it's a run even if he's stopped behind the line of scrimmage.

Similarly, if a halfback who is clearly trying to throw is tackled before the line of scrimmage, it's a sack, not a run. (The most famous example I can think of: Refrigerator Perry was sacked in Super Bowl XX.)

The NFL rule is different from the NCAA rule. In college, a QB scramble for 0 yards is considered a run for 0 yards, not a sack.

Section 16, Article 4 of the NCAA Statistics Manual A.R. 4. Adams is back to pass, but has to scramble. Benson tackles him at the original line of scrimmage. Credit Benson with a solo tackle and Adams with one rush for no yards.

by BillyB (not verified) :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 3:33pm

I can buy that Roethlisberger was ruled to have gained 0 yards even though he clearly got beyond the line of scrimmage.

I will also buy that it is a sack because it was a designed pass.

But then why isn't Polamalu's tackle of Joe Flacco in the AFCCG ruled a sack? It was a designed pass, and he clearly didn't gain a yard. I don't see the difference between this play and the Dockett play.

by TGT2 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 4:26pm

Flacco was tackled 5 times in the AFCCG, 3 of them were credited as sacks.

The other 2 were:
1 rush up the middle for no gain on a QB sneak.
1 rush for -8 yards around the left end after a fake handoff.

Which of these plays were you talking about? It can't be the first one, because everyone in the stadium saw it was a run pre-snap (including Polamalu who made the tackle by leaving his coverage responsibility and crashing the line).

It can't be the second one if you've ever watched the Raven's play. Flacco fakes the QB draw left off every shotgun handoff right. Every few games, he fakes the handoff and runs the draw. It was a stupid call, as Polamalu was the unblocked force defender, and he plays the cutback lane on runs away from him, so he was looking right where Flacco was running to.

Am I missing something?

by Cols714 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 4:56pm

Yeah, the 3rd play was a fake handoff and a pass play, not a designated running play.

by BillyB (not verified) :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 6:38pm

I can't find the highlight of the Flacco play anywhere, but my recollection is that Polamalu was covering a receiver and came up from coverage responsibility to make the tackle. Maybe Flacco was originally planning to run, but that doesn't change the fact that he had potential receivers. I guess we need to know whether linemen were blocking downfield or not.

Regardless, it's clear that the NFL does not have a clear distinction between sack and tackle behind the LOS.

by troycapitated p... :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 7:47pm

Not that this would make it definitive, or anything, but on the Flacco play, the announcers at the time believed it to be a designed run and said as it happened that it would be a tackle for a loss rather than a sack.

by andrew :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 3:55pm

Do wildcat runs that fail to gain yards count as sacks? Because the player who took the snap is not a quarterback? what if it was someone like Matt Jones or Randle-El who played qb in college?

by tuluse :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 4:03pm

It has to be a pass play, so just a normal i-form QB sneak is not a sack if it gets stuffed. To put it another way, where the ball carrier lined up doesn't matter, only if he intended to throw it.

by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 5:45pm

I hate the NFL for having too many rules. Let's keep it simple.

I don't claim to know or understand how things are counted today. But here is how they should be counted:

-If a QB (or the man who recieved the snap) is tackled behind the LOS, it's a sack. I am okay with an exception for a short-yardage sneak for a loss.

That's it. One rule, with one exception. There is no reason to make it any more complicated than this.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 8:08pm

Not sack record for free. More like sack record nob. going to smoke the good ol Sierra Nevadan after get to store to buy it. going to sign non ltare on tonighte after. been missing lots of posts lately, but will be back for more offseaosn going to be good. havent posted much since website got fancy becacause pages dont load fast they like used to

by Theo :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 8:36pm

so who are the raiders going to draft huh?

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 9:59pm

Wow. The world just got a bit brighter.

by Theo :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 8:34pm

videos like that going with an article, would make this site priceless.
Also, priceless since the NFL doesn't want anyone to promote or use their broadcasts (hello youtube). But the point is made.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 02/06/2009 - 10:44pm

to Theo,Raiders going to make good pciks in draft, you cna count on it.
Raiders probably oging to tka e a looki at Anquan Boildin. RAIDERS NEED good guy to work middle of the field. this frees up outside for speeb burners like JL Higgins to get single coverage. A Shields going to be very good and C Schilens going to be good too.

In draft team might be looking at Alabam lineman. very good chance he going to become J Russell best fried

by MJK :: Mon, 02/09/2009 - 3:45pm

I don't see the problem with trying to distinguish between a "pass play" and a "run play" for the purpose of determining sack counts, since the game ALREADY makes that distinction for actual rule enforcement.

Under certain conditions, linemen are allowed downfield to block because the play is a "running play", while under other conditions they are not, because it's a "passing play". I don't know exactly what all these conditions are, but I know they exist. It's the reason why a RB on a sweep or toss who is about to be tackled for a loss can't save yards by flipping the ball forward out of bounds to make the play an "incomplete pass"--because in most such situations, linemen have already moved downfield and a "pass attempt" would result in a flag for ineligible downfield.

I would imagine (though I don't know for sure) that the reason why some QB scrambles that fail to gain yards are "sacks" and others are "rushes for a loss" would hinge on whether linemen were allowed downfield prior to the tackle--i.e. whether the play is officially considered a "pass play" or a "run play" for purposes of determining the ineligible downfield rule.