Sacks Have More To Do with Quarterback Play Than People Realize

Montgomery WoseleyContributor IFebruary 27, 2009

The common logic is that the 47 sacks that Big Ben took were because of his poor offensive line and that the 52 sacks the Lions gave up were a result of their offensive line. But this logic doesn't entirely work.

David Carr, as Houston's quarterback, was sacked 241 times in his career—including 41 times his final year. Yet Matt Schuab, with roughly the same offensive line, was sacked only 17 times in 11 games.

Moreover, the 2007 Falcons gave up 47 sacks to their round-robin of quarterbacks but only 17 to Matt Ryan this year.

This is proof that quarterbacks are just as responsible—if not more—than the offensive line for the number of sacks. Quarterbacks who have an innate feel for pressure and get the ball out of their hands quickly tend to avoid sacks.

While Big Ben's offensive line was at its worst with injuries and inexperience this year, Big Ben's sack numbers are consistent with the numbers he put up the past two seasons.

The Indianapolis Colts' offensive line also dealt with some injuries and inexperience this year, but Peyton Manning was only sacked 14 times, which was consistent with his other totals (21, 14, 17, 13, 18).

Does that mean the offensive line has no effect on the passing game?

Definitely not. Quarterbacks with a poor offensive line don't have the time in the pocket to make throws down the field.

In 2007, Drew Brees, who in the first four games of the season was under tremendous pressure, was forced to get rid of the ball before he wanted. As a result, he threw one touchdown to nine interceptions. Interestingly, in those games, he took only four sacks.

That is what makes Big Ben special. While under pressure, he is still an effective passer. His DVOA (defense adjusted value over average), when hurried, was the best in the league, despite the fact that he was hurried at his highest rate in 2007.

Big Ben is a great quarterback, but taking a lot of sacks is a part of his game no matter who his blockers are. With Big Ben, you just have to live with the sacks, just like you have to live with Brett Favre's interceptions.

The player whose number he shares and his game most resembles is Hall-of-Famer John Elway, who also took a large number of sacks.