Game: Cowboys at Falcons
Play: Not 1 sack, not 2 or 3 sacks, but 6 sacks!?!
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
I can’t begin to tell each and everyone out there how difficult it is to achieve certain feats within an NFL game. A task outcome that looks as simple as scoring a touchdown (no matter in what facet that this touchdown occurs), grasping an interception, or recording a sack are extraordinarily impressive feats. For example, this is precisely why if an individual registers an average of even just one sack a game they are immediately given serious consideration for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
Well, as impressive as one sack per game is…imagine notching up not just one sack in a game, and not even just two or three sacks…but six sacks! That is precisely what Adrian Clayborn, DE of the Atlanta Falcons, did against the Tyron Smith-less Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. This number ended up only one shy of the NFL record set by Derrick Thomas way back in 1990. The length of time that this record has stood should tell you enough of how incredible the feat is but we should also keep in mind that the NFL offensive landscape has also changed significantly in that timeframe (even though there is more emphasis on passing the ball there’s also a lot more quick hitting passes with a lot less frequent deeper drops); thus, it makes what Clayborn did on Sunday a no-brainer for recognition on our Movement Play of the Week for Week 10.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
Entering the game on Sunday, Adrian Clayborn had notched only two sacks in the first eight games of the season. As it turns out, it wouldn’t take Clayborn more than a few minutes into the second quarter to double up this season figure. Though every top NFL player loves to be presented with the challenge of facing one of the very best in the league at the position lined up on the other side of him, Clayborn had to have been literally salivating as soon as he saw that the Dallas Cowboys would be without All-Pro Tackle Tyron Smith and instead would be starting Chaz Green. From the looks of it, I’m not sure Green knew exactly what he was in for on this day.
Normally when people talk about pass rushing forces on the Atlanta Falcons the first guy that comes to mind is 2016 NFL sack leader, Vic Beasley (a member of our 2016 All-Movement Team). However, as Clayborn showed on Sunday, he is also a supremely-dominant force to be reckoned with and he took advantage of his opportunity to line up versus a guy that was left grasping for air more times than we can count on one hand Sunday. That all said though, let’s remember that no matter how lopsided the match-up looked at any point during the game, and no matter who it is that we are talking about in the league, each player is still presented with a challenge of facing one of just 1,695 other active players in the world who are capable of playing at that upper echelon level. Thus, let’s be sure not to discredit Clayborn’s performance just because it happened against a non-starting offensive lineman.
Because I am guessing that it would be just a little too much for those out there to listen to me break down each step taken within each sack, I will let you scroll down to the bottom of the page and watch all three minutes worth of sacks if you so choose. If you do, you will see Clayborn dominated on Sunday not due to some overly diverse and vast array of tools in his pass rushing toolbox (as it so often is the case when we highlight players here on our blog) but instead he relied on key performance indicators of his skill which are displayed by almost every top sack master; acceleration off the edge and cornering around the edge. In fact, I think we can trace each sack but one (which came through the use of an inside spin move) to a certain level back to these two features of who he is. Additionally, a couple of key performance indicators of his psychology truly made it all possible; his unwavering trust in his abilities combined by his intention to go out and be a game changer all game long.
This may all sound pretty intuitively obvious but for a football movement coach & analyst (note: I don’t work with or know Clayborn at all) it was great to see this combination of traits that I often preach to defensive players result in such a record setting day. Don’t get me wrong; many coaches preach this approach (both physical and psychological) to their pass rushers (and players across their roster for that matter) but to me it’s something that they must be exposed to day-in and day-out which can be developed and acquired as second nature: the repeated explosive burst out of his stance, driving the corner hard and fast, the ability to perceive when an opening in the problem-solving dynamic is present and when Prescott was just within reach to trust his abilities and leap to attack…they were all things of beauty exhibited by Clayborn and they combined to accumulate into six sacks but also force a few turnovers along the way, as well.
Click below to watch Clayborn record sack after sack here: