Class of 2009 enshrinee Bruce Smith may very well want to thank fellow Hall of Famer Deacon Jones. It was Jones who came up with the term “sack” to describe the play where a defensive player drops a quarterback for a loss on a pass play.
Jones didn’t get to have his name attached to the sack in the NFL Record Book since it wasn’t an official league statistic during his career with the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, and Washington Redskins from 1961 to 1974. The sack became an official NFL stat in 1982.
Three years later, in 1985, the Buffalo Bills used its first overall draft pick on a player that ultimately ended up sacking a quarterback more than any other player in the history of the NFL.
Buffalo had just suffered through a miserable 2-14 season in 1984 and were looking to fill many holes. The Bills decided it really needed a game-changer on defense to get the franchise moving in the right direction and as such took Virginia Tech’s Bruce Smith with that first pick.
|Smith broke Reggie White's all-time sack record with this take-down of Jesse Palmer.|
“When he went down, I thought he threw the ball. When I saw him and he had the ball in his hand, I knew it was done,” commented Smith about the record-setting moment.
Smith, who played his final four seasons with Washington after 15 years in Buffalo, immediately jumped to his feet and raised his arm in celebration as his teammates rejoiced. Naturally, the home crowd did not share the moment and booed heartedly at their division rivals.
That is in stark contrast to Week 4 of his rookie season. Smith, a fairly raw rookie, was facing the Minnesota Vikings at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, New York on September 29, 1985. That game was just one of three that Smith did not start during his first season. Regardless, he brought the Bills fans to their feet for the first of many times to come when in the first quarter, he found his way to Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer. Smith dropped the veteran passer for a 10-yard loss for his first NFL sack. He added a second sack that day when he again nailed Kramer, this time for a 9-yard loss in the second quarter.
Despite Smith’s heroics, the Bills fell to the Vikings when Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant called a “Statue of Liberty” play late in the game to give Minnesota a 27-20 win. Despite his efforts, this type of frustration for Smith and the Bills continued over the next two seasons. In fact, Smith’s first ten games of his career in which recorded a sack all came during Buffalo losses.
But, Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy arrived on the scene midway through Smith’s second year and the fortunes of the team soon turned. The Bills started to stockpile talent to surround their prized right defensive end.
By 1990, Smith rose to the top of his game. He recorded a career-high 19 sacks during the season to help lead Buffalo to its first ever Super Bowl berth. That year he was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. He had a sack in 10 different games during the season, nine of which were Bills wins. He capped the regular season with his lone four-sack game of his career as he sacked Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jeff George four times in the first half of the Bills’ 31-7 win in Indianapolis on December 9.
The following year, Smith underwent a knee operation in preseason that limited him to just five regular season games in which he had a mere 1.5 sacks. He returned, albeit not at 100 percent, to play in all three playoff games including Super Bowl XXVI.
In 1992, he returned to form as he racked up 14 sacks and earned his fifth Pro Bowl. He picked up another 14 sacks in 1992 and was again named the NFL’s top defensive player.
Smith played his final season with Buffalo in 1999.He added seven sacks to his career total to finish with franchise record 171 sacks accumulated during 15 seasons with the Bills. His final game in a Buffalo uniform came during the famous “Music City Miracle” wild-card game. Overlooked by the exhilarating and controversial ending to the game was that Smith established the all-time NFL playoff sack record that day. He had 2.5 sacks against the Titans to bring his playoff career sack total to 14.5 sacks.
He signed as free agent with the Washington Redskins in 2000 and continued to be an impact player. Smith had 10 sacks during his first season in Washington to establish a record for most multi-digit sack seasons (13). The nine-time Pro Bowler had 29 sacks during his four seasons in Washington.
Two weeks after breaking White’s record during his final season, Smith added No. 200 during the second quarter of the Redskins game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The final sack of his illustrious career came on a five-yard drop of Rex Grossman.
Smith’s resume of 200 career sacks came against 76 different quarterbacks. Ken O’Brien of the New York Jets holds the distinction as being the most sacked QB (17.5). Smith had multi-sack games 51 times. Overall, the Bills/Redskins were a combined 95-55 when Smith recorded a sack.
|From Kramer to Grossman – Bruce Smith’s regular season sack-by-sack log|
|1||9/29/85||vs. MIN||Tommy Kramer||1.0||1||10||L, 20-27|
|2||Tommy Kramer (2)||1.0||2||9|
|3||10/13/85||at NE||Tony Eason||1.0||2||13||L, 3-14|
|3.5||11/3/85||vs. CIN||Boomer Esiason||0.5||1||6||L, 17-23|
|4.5||11/17/85||at CLE||Bernie Kosar||1.0||2||4||L, 7-17|
|5.5||12/8/85||vs. NYJ||Ken O'Brien||1.0||1||3||L, 7-27|
|6.5||12/15/85||at PIT||Scott Campbell||1.0||3||3||L, 24-30|
|7.5||9/7/86||vs. NYJ||Ken O'Brien (2)||1.0||3||9||L, 24-28|
|8.5||9/14/86||at CIN||Boomer Esiason (1.5)||1.0||4||12||L, 33-36|
|9.5||9/28/86||vs. KC||Todd Blackledge||1.0||2||9||L, 17-20|
|10.5||10/5/86||at NYJ||Ken O'Brien (3)||1.0||2||12||L, 13-14|
|11.5||Ken O'Brien (4)||1.0||2||4|
|12.5||10/19/86||vs. IND||Jack Trudeau||1.0||3||8||W, 24-13|
|13.5||10/26/86||vs. NE||Tony Eason (2)||1.0||4||11||L, 3-23|
|14.5||Tony Eason (3)||1.0||4||11|
|15||11/2/86||at TB||Steve Young||0.5||3||3.5||L, 28-34|
|15.5||11/16/86||vs. MIA||Dan Marino||0.5||3||1.5||L, 24-34|
|16.5||Dan Marino (1.5)||1.0||3||12|
|17.5||11/23/86||at NE||Tony Eason (4)||1.0||2||12||L, 19-22|
|18.5||11/30/86||at KC||Bill Kenney||1.0||3||3||W, 17-14|
|19.5||12/7/86||vs. CLE||Bernie Kosar (2)||1.0||2||0||L, 17-21|
|20.5||12/14/86||at IND||Gary Hogeboom||1.0||3||5||L, 14-24|
|21.5||12/21/86||at HOU||Warren Moon||1.0||3||10||L, 7-16|
|22||9/13/87||vs. NYJ||Ken O'Brien (4.5)||0.5||1||2||L, 28-31|
|23||Ken O'Brien (5.5)||1.0||4||3|
|24||9/20/87||vs. HOU||Warren Moon (2)||1.0||1||12||W, 34-30|
|25||10/25/87||at MIA||Dan Marino (2.5)||1.0||3||7||W, 34-31|
|26||11/8/87||vs. DEN||John Elway||1.0||4||7||W, 21-14|
|27||11/15/87||at CLE||Bernie Kosar (3)||1.0||2||0||L, 21-27|
|28||Bernie Kosar (4)||1.0||4||9|
|29||11/22/87||at NYJ||Ken O'Brien (6.5)||1.0||1||8||W, 17-14|
|29.5||Ken O'Brien (7)||0.5||3||3|
|30.5||12/13/87||at IND||Jack Trudeau (2)||1.0||2||12||W, 27-3|
|31.5||Jack Trudeau (3)||1.0||2||9|
|33.5||12/27/87||at PHI||Randall Cunningham||1.0||2||9||L, 7-17|
|34.5||10/9/88||vs. IND||Gary Hogeboom (2)||1.0||4||11||W, 34-23|
|35.5||10/17/88||at NYJ||Ken O'Brien (8)||1.0||1||7||W, 37-14|
|36.5||Ken O'Brien (9)||1.0||1||3|
|37||Ken O'Brien (9.5)||0.5||1||5.5|
|38||10/23/88||vs. NE||Doug Flutie||1.0||4||4||W, 23-20|
|38.5||10/30/88||vs. GB||Don Majkowski||0.5||2||3.5||W, 28-0|
|39.5||11/6/88||at SEA||Kelly Stouffer||1.0||1||9||W, 13-3|
|40.5||Kelly Stouffer (2)||1.0||2||9|
|41.5||11/27/88||at CIN||Boomer Esiason (2.5)||1.0||3||8||L, 21-35|
|42.5||12/4/88||at TB||Vinny Testaverde||1.0||3||5||L, 5-10|
|43.5||12/11/88||vs. RAI||Jay Schroeder||1.0||2||7||W, 37-21|
|44.5||12/18/88||at IND||Chris Chandler||1.0||3||9||L, 14-17|
|45||9/18/89||vs. DEN||John Elway (1.5)||0.5||2||6.5||L, 14-28|
|46||9/24/89||at HOU||Warren Moon (3)||1.0||3||9||W, 47-41|
|47||10/1/89||vs. NE||Doug Flutie (2)||1.0||2||15||W, 31-10|
|48||10/16/89||vs. RAM||Jim Everett||1.0||1||7||W, 23-20|
|49||Jim Everett (2)||1.0||3||5|
|50||10/22/89||vs. NYJ||Ken O'Brien (10.5)||1.0||2||8||W, 34-3|
|51||Ken O'Brien (11.5)||1.0||3||4|
|52||Ken O'Brien (12.5)||1.0||3||9|
|52.5||11/12/89||vs. IND||Tom Ramsey||0.5||2||4||W, 30-7|
|53||Tom Ramsey (1)||0.5||4||2.5|
|54||12/10/89||vs. NO||John Fourcade (1)||1.0||2||8||L, 19-22|
|55||John Fourcade (2)|