Who has the most sacks in a single NFL game? We reveal all and run through those who have given opposing quarterbacks very bad days over the years.
Sometimes a player will have a single game where he’s in the zone and continuously finding his way to the quarterback.
Whether it’s due to excellent play or just bad blocking, there have been games when certain players have really racked up the sacks, and we’re about to list them here.
We have already looked at those who have amassed the most sacks in a single season, but here we look at the rankings for the most sacks in a game (regular season only).
It should be noted that sacks did not become an official statistic in the NFL until 1982.
Most Sacks in an NFL Game (since 1982)
1. 7 Sacks – Derrick Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs (vs Seattle Seahawks; Nov. 11, 1990)
After 33 years, Thomas still holds the record outright for the most sacks in a game in NFL history as he made life miserable for Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg in late 1990. His seven sacks that day remain the most in an NFL game since sacks were recorded as a stat.
Remarkably, Thomas’ efforts were not enough as the Seahawks edged the Chiefs 17-16. Krieg lost many battles that day but won the war as, with just four seconds remaining, he narrowly evaded what would have been Thomas’ eighth sack before launching a 25-yard game-winning pass to Paul Skansi for a Seattle touchdown.
T-2. 6 Sacks – Fred Dean, San Francisco 49ers (vs New Orleans Saints; Nov. 13, 1983)
Dean obviously could barely wait for sacks to be recorded as he took just a year to put his name at the top of the pile. He actually broke the NFL record set by William Gay just two months earlier, but more on that later.
His six sacks against the Saints helped set the tone. San Francisco trailed 13-6 at halftime, but put up a flawless second-half performance defensively as they scored 26 uninterrupted points to win 32-13. Only Dean’s final four years saw sack numbers recorded, and 1983 was by some distance his best season, with 17.5 sacks overall. The two-time Super Bowl winner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
T-2. 6 Sacks – Derrick Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs (vs Oakland Raiders; Sept. 6, 1998)
Back again, Thomas proved his record-setting effort in 1990 was not just a fluke performance, albeit almost eight years later. This time, it was enough for the W as the Chiefs beat the Raiders 28-8. Thomas’ six sacks that day were for a combined total of 36 sack yards and included a safety.
Sadly, Thomas passed away less than two years later at the age of just 33 but was inducted posthumously into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
T-2. 6 Sacks – Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants (vs Philadelphia Eagles; Sept. 30, 2007)
These days, Umenyiora can be found alongside former Giants teammate Jason Bell giving authoritative and charismatic insight into the game on the UK’s NFL television coverage. Back in 2007, though, Umenyiora was playing a big part in what would be a Super Bowl winning season for the Giants.
On the road to beating the New England Patriots in Arizona, the Giants secured a 16-3 win over the Eagles in Week 4, with Umenyiora producing a career-high six sacks. In only one other game that season did he record more than one sack.
T-2. 6 Sacks – Adrian Clayborn, Atlanta Falcons (vs Dallas Cowboys; Nov. 12, 2017)
In 2017, Clayborn joined the six-sack club while helping the Falcons go to the playoffs. He was a first-round pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2011 NFL Draft, but it would be with the Falcons where his most impressive day would arrive six years later.
The defensive end dominated in the Week 10 win against the Cowboys, with Dallas scoring a TD in the first period before failing to add to the score for the rest of the game. The Falcons were 27-7 victors with Clayborn finishing with six sacks, which were the only tackles he had in the game.
T-2. 6 Sacks – Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers (vs Las Vegas Raiders; Oct. 1, 2023)
When your name rhymes with ‘sack’, you might feel under even more pressure to produce purely for the potential headlines. Step forward Khalil Mack, who added his name to the joint-second place list in Week 4 of the 2023 season, despite having not recorded any in the first three games.
It seemed as though Mack’s best days were behind him, having not totaled double figures for a season since he left the Raiders in 2018, but the 32-year-old rolled back the years against, you guessed it, the Raiders. QB Aidan O’Connell was sacked seven times that day, six times by Mack, and that played a big part in the Chargers securing a 24-17 victory.
Not only that, but his total of 45 sack yards fell just one yard short of the all-time record, currently held by Chandler Jones (46 sack yards for the Cardinals vs the Titans in 2021).
T-7. 5.5 Sacks – William Gay, Detroit Lions (vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Sept. 4, 1983)
As mentioned, Gay had held the sack record early on as he put up 5.5 for the Lions against the Bucs in 1983.
In Week 1 of that season, it was a perfect start for Detroit as they not only beat their opponents, they secured a shutout, winning 11-0. Gay was integral to that defensive performance, though he would only hold onto the record for a few weeks. Of the seven years of his career when sack numbers were recorded, 1983 was his most productive, as he had 13.5 sacks that season.
T-7. 5.5 Sacks – Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers (vs Chicago Bears; Nov. 19, 2012)
The second Niner on this list, Smith helped give Bears QB Jason Campbell a particularly bad day as San Francisco won 32-7 in Week 11 of the 2012 season. He also totaled 45 sack yards, which was a record until it was broken by Chandler Jones in 2021 (and recently matched by Khalil Mack).
Smith had 19.5 sacks to help the 49ers go to the Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens that NFL season, but that would be the highlight of what was ultimately a short career for the Missouri man.
Other Sack Leaders
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Howie Long, Los Angeles Raiders (vs Washington; Oct. 2, 1983)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Randy Holloway, Minnesota Vikings (vs Atlanta Falcons; Sept. 16, 1984)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Jim Jeffcoat, Dallas Cowboys (vs Washington; Nov. 10, 1985)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Leslie O’Neal, San Diego Chargers (vs Dallas Cowboys; Nov. 16, 1986)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Gary Jeter, Los Angeles Rams (vs Los Angeles Raiders; Sept. 18, 1988)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Chuck Smith, Atlanta Falcons (vs New Orleans Saints; Oct. 12, 1997)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Vonnie Holliday, Green Bay Packers (vs Buffalo Bills; Dec. 22, 2002)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Antwan Odom, Cincinnati Bengals (vs Green Bay Packers; Sept. 20, 2009)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders (vs Denver Broncos; Dec. 13, 2015)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Haason Reddick, Arizona Cardinals (vs New York Giants; Dec. 13, 2020)
- T-9. 5 Sacks – Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals (vs Tennessee Titans; Sept. 12, 2021)