October 26, 2009

1980: Bert Jones Sacked 12 Times by Cardinals

The Week 8 matchup on October 26, 1980 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium featured the Colts (4-3) taking on the visiting St. Louis Cardinals (2-5). After back-to-back 5-11 seasons in which QB Bert Jones had barely seen any action due to serious shoulder injuries, the Colts were on the upswing and the return of a healthy Jones was the key to the resurgence.

The Cardinals had also been 5-11 in 1979 and were attempting to rebuild under new Head Coach Jim Hanifan. On this day, the object of the St. Louis defense was, in the words of DE Curtis Greer, “to make Jones step up in the pocket”. What happened was Jones being sacked an NFL-record 12 times, with 4.5 credited (unofficially) to Greer (sacks were still two years away from being an officially recognized statistic for individual players). While the Cardinals weren’t the first team to record 12 sacks in a game, it was the first time that the same quarterback was the victim all 12 times.

For all of that, the game was close, with the Cardinals taking a 17-3 lead in the third quarter and holding on to win, 17-10. Jones took a beating, losing a total of 73 yards on the sacks, but managed to complete 19 of 43 passes for 250 yards and a TD while tossing two interceptions (he completed 9 of those passes, for 120 yards, to WR Roger Carr). The net passing yards were fairly even (171 for the Cardinals vs. 177 for Baltimore), and star RB Ottis Anderson of St. Louis was held to just 51 yards on 20 carries. So, defense had been the key.

Since that time, two more quarterbacks have been sacked 12 times in a game – Warren Moon of the Houston Oilers by the Cowboys in 1985 and Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb by the Giants in 2007.

Both the Colts and Cardinals ended up the 1980 season with 7-9 records. While Jones went on to have a solid season - he established career highs for pass attempts (446), completions (248) and yards (3134) - it wasn’t enough to lift the Colts above mediocrity. And while the Cards received credit for an improved and more consistent defense, they were not contenders – but for one game, they achieved a spot in the record book.