Sack machine

Sack machine

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Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009 Enshrinee Derrick Thomas amassed 126.5 quarterback sacks during his 11-season career. No player in the NFL had more sacks than Thomas’s 116.5 he accumulated during the decade of the 1990s. From the outset of his NFL career, one that began as the fourth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft, he illustrated a knack for getting to the quarterback and had the ability to completely take over games.

Thomas logged 27 multi-sack games during his career. Seventy-three of his sacks, or 58 percent, came during games in which he registered more than one sack. In general, when a NFL quarterback got hit by Thomas, he was relatively assured that it would not be the last time the two would meet in that game.

More than half of Thomas’s multi-sack games came against AFC West rivals. One such game, and perhaps his most memorable of his career, occurred against the Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium on November 11, 1990.

In just his second season, Thomas was already a force to be reckoned with. When the two clubs stepped onto the field for the Week 10 meeting, they had reversed records. The Chiefs entered the game at 5-3 while Seattle came to town with three wins and five losses. The game quickly became a battle of the defenses as each offensive unit struggled to assert themselves.

There was one player that day that had no trouble declaring he was ready to play. Thomas left no doubt that he on the verge of something special that day. It all started during the game’s first possession when Derrick dropped Seahawks’ QB Dave Krieg for a five-yard loss during a 3rd-and-20 pass attempt. Krieg fared no better during the next possession when Thomas got to him again, this time for a 14-yard loss.

The teams traded field goals and then Kansas City tacked on another three-pointer to take a 6-3 lead into halftime. Normally for most defensive players a pair of sacks, especially in just one half, would be a good day’s work. Certainly Thomas’s two sacks helped set the tone for the game. But, what the Seahawks didn’t realize was that No. 58 was just getting started.

Seattle struck quickly in the third quarter on a four-play drive capped by a 54-yard touchdown pass. Kansas City countered with a field goal. As the Chiefs trailed, 10-9, the team looked to its defensive leader for support. So typical of how Thomas played throughout his career, he wasted no time in changing the tempo of the game. He was never satisfied with just a sack, he always wanted the ball with it. That’s exactly what happened on Sack No. 3. He found his way to Krieg and pried the ball loose. It rolled into the Seahawks end zone where the Chiefs’ Dan Saleaumua recovered it for a touchdown and a 16-10 K.C. lead.

As the final quarter began the Chiefs held onto its lead which forced Seattle to throw the football. This played right into Thomas’s strength. Over the Seahawks’ next three possessions Thomas continually harassed Krieg and sacked him four more times. In doing so, he set the NFL’s single-game sack record previously held by fellow Hall of Famer Fred Dean.

Surprisingly, Thomas’s seven sacks weren’t quite enough that day. If he had made it eight, which some thought he had, it surely would have preserved a Chiefs win. But, with just four seconds left, Krieg narrowly escaped from Thomas and threw the game-winning pass, a 25-yard strike to Paul Skansi.

“I’m glad they didn’t call me in-the-grasp, he had his hands around my hips,” explained Krieg. “Fortunately, I just shook away from him.”

Thomas, always the ultimate team player, was not satisfied with his seven-sack feat. “I thought I had him, that last sack I didn’t get is the one I’m going to remember,” he shared about the record-setting day.

That was one of only five losses that the Chiefs suffered that season. With Thomas emerging as the team leader, he helped Kansas City to only its third post-season appearance since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. He recorded a career-high 20 sacks in 1990 to go along with a team-high six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 63 tackles, five pass deflections and 35 quarterback pressures. For his efforts he earned first-team All-NFL acclaim for the first time.


Date Opponent Sacks
10/1/1995 Arizona 2.0
10/7/1991 Buffalo 4.0
12/22/1996 Buffalo 2.0
11/17/1996 Chicago 2.0
9/30/1990 Cleveland 1.5
11/12/1989 Denver 2.0
12/9/1990 Denver 2.0
11/17/1991 Denver 3.0
12/27/1992 Denver 3.0
11/16/1997 Denver 2.0
11/8/1993 Green Bay 2.0
11/10/1996 Green Bay 2.0
9/1/1996 Houston 2.0
10/7/1990 Indianapolis 3.0
12/12/1999 Minnesota 2.0
9/10/1995 New York Giants 2.0
10/11/1992 Philadelphia 3.0
9/17/1989 Raiders 2.5
10/3/1993 Raiders 2.0
9/8/1996 Raiders 2.0
9/6/1998 Raiders 6.0
12/26/1998 Raiders 2.0
11/8/1992 San Diego 4.0
12/14/1997 San Diego 3.0
9/11/1994 San Francisco 3.0
11/11/1990 Seattle 7.0
12/1/1991 Seattle 2.0
  Total: 73.0


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