November 11, 2009

1990: Derrick Thomas Has 7 Sacks vs. Seahawks

On November 11, 1990, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas set the record for most sacks by an individual player in an NFL game with seven – but it was the one that he failed to make that cost the Chiefs the game.

Kansas City was 5-3 and trying to keep pace with the Raiders in the AFC West as they hosted the Seattle Seahawks (3-5) at Arrowhead Stadium. The game was low-scoring, with the Chiefs holding a 6-3 lead at the half. The Seahawks passed for the first touchdown in the third quarter, with QB Dave Krieg hitting WR Jeff Chadwick for 54 yards.

After Kansas City’s Nick Lowery narrowed the margin with a 24-yard field goal to make the score 10-9, Thomas forced a fumble as he sacked Krieg for the third time in the game; NT Dan Saleaumua recovered in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

Thomas put on an outstanding display of pass rushing skill as he sacked Krieg four more times to break Fred Dean’s record of 6 sacks in a game (set in 1983). But in the end it wasn’t enough as the Seahawks went 66 yards on four plays in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. With time expiring, Krieg looked downfield to make a desperation pass and it appeared that Thomas had a grip on him for a game-ending sack; instead, the quarterback got free and fired the ball into the end zone where a well-covered WR Paul Skansi outleaped the Kansas City defenders and came down with the 25-yard TD reception. Norm Johnson kicked the game-winning extra point, and Seattle ended up with a 17-16 win.

“I thought I had him,” said a disappointed Thomas afterward. “He just stumbled back and caught his balance and threw the pass. That last sack I didn’t get is the one I’m going to remember.”

In spite of being sacked a total of 9 times (once apiece by LB Chris Martin and DE Neil Smith in addition to the seven by Thomas), Krieg was able to complete 16 of 23 passes for 306 yards and the two touchdowns. His Kansas City counterpart, Steve DeBerg, couldn’t get the Chiefs into the end zone, completing 16 of 30 passes for 124 yards, with no completion longer than 15 yards.

The Chiefs ended up with an 11-5 record, coming in second in the AFC West and making the postseason as a wild card; they lost to Miami in the first round (also by a 17-16 score). Seattle was right behind in third place at 9-7.

Derrick Thomas led the NFL with a career-high 20 sacks over the course of the 1990 season, doubling his rookie total of the year before when he had been selected as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. He was a unanimous All-NFL selection and went to his second of an eventual nine Pro Bowls over the course of his Hall of Fame career.