Joy of sacks

Posted Dec 17, 2009

The Seahawks’ sack totals are down, as are those of Patrick Kerney. Which only makes the team’s sack leader appreciate them even more.

If anyone can appreciate a good sack, it’s Patrick Kerney.

Those he collects, of course, and only five active NFL players have more than Kerney’s career total of 82½ (including 24½ the past three seasons with the Seahawks). But also the ones generated by his teammates and even players from other teams – in games where they are not playing the Seahawks.

In fact, Kerney has reached the stage in his career where he realizes there is no such thing as a sack that isn’t good, because they are just too difficult to come by.

“When a guy beats the blocker, gets a sack, causes a big play; dance, buddy. Celebrate, man, because that’s hard to do,” Kerney said after practice.

Getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been a season-long problem for the Seahawks, who have 27 sacks entering Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Qwest Field. Kerney leads the club with five, which is one of the reasons the team doesn’t have more.

“It’s frustrating when you rush four and you struggle to get there,” coach Jim Mora said. “So you go, ‘OK, we’ve got to add guys in, because we’ve got to find a way to get to him.’ Then every time you add guys in, you either void a zone or you leave a guy in man-to-man coverage.

“And then when you go that route and they beat you, you start pulling your hair out. You really do.”

This hair-pulling situation could change Sunday, when the Bucs will start a rookie QB (Josh Freeman) in the din generated by the fans at Qwest. Freeman has been sacked at least three times in three of his six starts, and thrown eight interceptions in the past two.

The inability of the Seahawks’ other linemen to generate sacks – six of them have combined for 11½, compared to 10½ by the half dozen linebackers and defensive backs who have collected them on blitzes – allows opponents to use double-team blocks on Kerney.

“I’ve always said that sacks are a team thing,” Kerney said. “I say it when I’m getting them and I say it when I’m not getting them.”

One of the proudest achievements in his 11-season career came in 2004, while he was playing for the Atlanta Falcons. Kerney had 13 sacks, which earned him his first Pro Bowl berth. But they also helped the Falcons lead the league.

“Because a lot of guys were doing it,” he said. “Everyone was doing their job, and that’s how sacks are created.”

Another factor this season is that Kerney missed a game and a half with a strained groin and played through the injury for another five weeks.

“It’s difficult. It’s a challenge,” Kerney said. “But you’ve got to overcome it.”

Like those double-team blocks, and offensive linemen getting better at handling your repertoire of moves.

“The effort is certainly still there,” Kerney said. “But when you’re in the league a while, do people catch on to your tricks? Probably a little bit. So you’ve got to adapt and come up with new ones.”

Despite the double-team blocks and residual effects of the injury, Kerney continues to be oh so close to collecting more sacks. He rips. He slashes. He pushes. He grabs. He contorts his body in ways it was not intended. Frustratingly, he too often comes up just short.

“It’s not horseshoes or hand grenades, unfortunately,” Kerney said.

Kerney then shook his head before adding, “Sacks are a funny thing.” That’s funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha.

“I’ve watched some great passer rushers play 10 years in this league and never have double-digit sacks,” he said – with former Falcons teammate Brady Smith a prime example.

“I mean, the guy beat on some people. But because of a lot of three-step and five-step drops and timing routes, what can you do if the quarterback doesn’t have the ball long enough for you to get there?”

Sack masters
The Seahawks’ Patrick Kerney is third in the NFC and sixth in the NFL in career sacks among active players:

Player, Team


Jason Taylor, Dolphins


Joey Porter, Dolphins


Trevor Pryce, Ravens


John Abraham, Falcons


Leonard Little, Rams 


Patrick Kerney, Seahawks


Collecting double-digit sacks has become the standard for separating the elite pass-rushers from the average. Kerney has done it four times – including a career-high 14.5 in 2007, which earned him his second Pro Bowl berth in his first season with the Seahawks.

The difficulty of achieving double-digits is not lost on Kerney, who quickly calculated that generating 10-plus sacks in 350-plus pass plays is a ratio that wouldn’t be considered a success in most job evaluations.

“It just shows you how hard it is to do,” Kerney said. “That’s why when somebody beats a guy for a sack, I always say, ‘Have fun with it.’ ”

Even when the process that leads to the sack can be more frustrating than fun.

“There’s only one way to get sacks,” Kerney said. “And that’s to keep trying.”