The Norman Transcript

National Sports

September 24, 2013

Spread offenses and the season of the sack in the NFL

NORMAN — Eli Manning went down seven times, EJ Manuel one more than that Sunday. NFL teams are on a near-record sacks pace, and it’s not solely because of what defenses are doing. These spread-out offenses are making quarterbacks more vulnerable than ever.

Heading into Oakland’s visit to Denver on Monday night, there have been 97 sacks in Week 3, five short of the record set in 1986’s 11th week. The New York Jets led the way with eight on Buffalo rookie Manuel.

“You get what’s coming to you when you play the Jets. If you dig a hole, that’s their game,” Bills center Eric Wood said.

The Carolina Panthers got those seven on the Giants’ Manning, including five in the first quarter. FIVE!

“I think the big thing is you have to see how many passes are being thrown, more than anything else,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “It’s funny, but when people are throwing the ball more you are creating more opportunities (for sacks).”

Greg Hardy beat left tackle Will Beatty for three sacks.

“I’ve got one simple job — protect the guy with the ball. That’s my job,” Beatty said. “Do your job, good things are going to happen. I let it get way out of hand by having him go down.”

The sack parade began last Thursday night when Kansas City and Philadelphia combined for 11, including 31⁄2 by Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, who leads the league with 61⁄2. Houston is on pace for more than 30, which would obliterate Michael Strahan’s record of 221⁄2.

So what gives, other than offensive lines that can’t protect passers?

In part, blame the current trend of more wide-open attacks, particularly when offenses spread out personnel and place the onus on five linemen to handle whatever number of rushers. By getting more skill players out in space on pass plays, there’s also more burden on quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly.

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