What is a Sack in Football – All You Need To Know

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A sack occurs when the quarterback (or another offensive player acting as a passer) is tackled behind the line of scrimmage while attempting to throw a forward pass. This often happens when the defensive line or linebackers are able to quickly get past the offensive line and tackle the quarterback in the backfield.

For a tackle to be officially counted as a sack:

  • The player being tackled must be the quarterback who intends to throw a forward pass. If the quarterback intends to run it is counted as a tackle for loss instead.
  • The tackle must occur behind the line of scrimmage, not at or beyond it.
  • The quarterback must intend to throw the ball. If the play is designed for them to run it does not count as a sack.
  • Statisticians may look at the offensive formation and blocking scheme to help determine if the quarterback intended a passing or running play.

Key notes:

  • In the NFL, sack yardage is subtracted from team passing yards. In college football, it comes off the quarterback’s individual rushing yards.
  • Half sacks are awarded when multiple defenders sack the quarterback simultaneously.
  • A strip sack is when the quarterback fumbles the ball during a sack.

So in summary, a sack is when the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage while intending to pass the football. It is an impactful defensive play that sets the offense back.

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Half a Sack

A half sack occurs when two or more defensive players work together to tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage on a passing play. Each player involved gets credit for half of a sack.

Some key points about half sacks:

  • Half sacks are awarded even if more than two defenders are involved. For example, if three players sack the quarterback, all three get credit for a half sack.
  • Half sacks reflect a collaborative effort between defenders. They show the ability to coordinate and work as a unit to pressure the quarterback.
  • In the NFL, half sacks still count fully towards a player’s season and career sack totals. A player with 2.5 sacks would have 2 full sacks and 1 where they split credit.
  • Half sacks usually happen when one defender gets the quarterback’s upper body and another gets his legs. Or when a blitzing defensive back hits the quarterback high while a lineman grabs him low.
  • Sometimes half sacks occur due to the referee blowing the play dead for forward progress with multiple defenders converging.

So in summary, a half sack splits credit between two or more defensive players who combine to tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage while attempting to pass. It demonstrates good teamwork in the pass rush.



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