In the second quarter of his game against the Miami Dolphins, Patrick Mahomes took an unusual sack. How unusual? This unusual:
We only have detailed play-by-play data going back to 1994, but it doesn’t look like there’s a 30+ yard sack in the books from before then, so I think we’re going to have to call this an NFL record. It’s no 87-yard loss, but going from 3rd and 12 on your 33 to 4th and 42 on your 3 is an impressive play no matter how you slice it.
I thought I knew what a huge negative-yardage sack looked like. The pocket breaks down, pass rushers fly everywhere, and the poor quarterback bounces backward from threat to threat until the pack finally manages to bring them down. It looks a lot, in other words, like this Tim Tebow calamity, or this special treat from Joe Flacco.
Mahomes’ 30-yarder, however, fails to follow any such convention. He starts out in a fairly secure-looking pocket, then Emmanuel Ogbah and Jerome Baker shed their blocks simultaneously, and Mahomes decides to just run the hell away.
Mahomes seems to be gambling on a little change of direction on this backwards run being enough to squeeze around Baker and allow him to escape to the left, but as I suspect you all know from the fact that this play resulted in a 30-yard sack, this did not work at all. He was brought down on his own three-yard line:
If you paid attention to the Alex Rubenstein-generated chart at the top of the article, you’ll notice* that Mahomes is merely tied for the NFL bad sack record with then-Cardinals quarterback Stoney Case, who gave up a 30-yard sack back in 1997. Curious about the Case, uh, case, I thought it might be interesting to dig in on what happened there.
*You might also notice that four of the top eight sacks for lost yardage happened in the 19 or 20 seasons, within a year and 12 days of each other. Which is weird.
Here’s what I found: Case was only in that game because Arizona’s starting QB Kent Graham got himself absolutely annihilated by the Giants’ defensive front and was withdrawn in the second quarter with what looked like an ankle injury. He was not particularly ready for game time, and the Giants smelled (more) blood. The poor man ended up taking five sacks in two-and-a-bit quarters of action.
Getting thrown into a meat grinder is one pretty good excuse for giving up one of the all-time great sacks. Case has another: there was a fumble involved. To quote the indispensable Pro-Football Reference: “Stoney Case sacked by Scott Galyon for -30 yards. Stoney Case fumbles, recovered by Joe Wolf”.
As far as I can tell there’s not much archival footage of this play. The highlight package from the game shows a lot of Graham getting beaten up but very little Case. But the papers afterward suggest that much lost yardage was done post fumble. Here’s the Yonkers Herald Statesman:
Hit: Linebacker Scott Galyon’s sack on Stoney Case that created a fumble and an eventual 30-yard loss [emphasis mine] in the third quarter.
In the absence of video, I think it’s reasonable to use this as a sort of tiebreaker and say that while Mahomes’s sack wasn’t worse than Case’s per se, it was definitely sillier, and therefore deserves the number one spot on the bad sack rankings.
Besides, it’s just more fun to have Mahomes occupy top spot. He’s a truly transcendent talent, the kind of player who makes for appointment watching, and so it is far more amusing when he makes huge goofs. He can shrug them off. He’s Patrick Mahomes. Case’s career, meanwhile, lasted six starts, and he threw 11 more picks than touchdowns. Celebrating that dude getting blown up 23 years after the fact would just be mean.
Mahomes, of course, did shrug off the huge sack and two first-quarter interceptions, coming back to beat the Dolphins 33-27. Man’s so good at football that he can set a literal record for football ineptitude and still pick your defense to shreds a few plays later.
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