Saturday, October 8, 2022

Is Nick Bosa Chasing Board or Hart?

 By John Turney 
Tommy Hart
Credit: David Grove
Nick Bosa is having a phenomenal start to the 2022 season. After four games he leads the NFL in sacks with six, and quarterback hits with 16 (NFLGSIS). He also is credited with either 22 pressures (per Sportsradar) or 30 pressures (per Pro Football Focus) and whichever organization you trust more it doesn't matter because Bosa leads the NFL with either number.

The 49ers media relations department noted that his six sacks are tied for the most by a 49er after four games to begin a season. The other two are Tim Harris in 1992 and Bryant Young in 2005.
Nick Bosa
Credit: ESPN
Additionally, the 49ers media relations people released that if Bosa gets one sack he will tie Dwaine Board for the most sacks through five games. Board began the 1985 season with seven sacks the first quintet of games.

Yes, quite a start.

Since sacks pre-1982 are unofficial he won't have to get the number to hold the actual record:  Eight. 

Yes, eight. 

In 1976 Tommy Hart  recorded two sacks in the season opener against the Packers then in the fifth week he took down Rams quarterback James "Shack" Harris six times

Yes, six.

The six-sack performance was in Los Angeles on Monday Night Football and that night the 49ers shut out the Rams 16-0 thanks to a 49ers defense that had an amazing ten sacks. Hart and the rest of the defensive front were simply unblockable.

After seven years in a Dallas Cowboy-like Flex Defense system, the front four of the Niners got new life pumped into them by new defensive line coach Floyd Peters. Peters preferred to turn his rushers loose and coached the front to play more like the Fearsome Foursome or the Purple People Eaters of the 1960s-early 1970s rather than read and react like the Flex defense requires on likely running downs.

Hart, Cedrick Hardman, Cleveland Elam, and Jimmy Webb, the Gold Rush, were to use a "jet" technique and get upfield and go after the passer. If the play was a run they were to be athletic enough to play the run on the fly, "play the run on the way to the quarterback" was the mantra.  

The scheme worked extremely well as the 49ers led the NFL with 61 sacks and which is still the franchise record for sacks in a season, and it was in 14 games, not 16. In 1985 the team recorded 60 sacks in 16 games, which is the closest to the mark set by the Golden Rushers.

Going into the Monday night battle the Rams were 3-0-1 (they tied the Vikings) and the 49ers were 3-1, the best start for them since 1970. 

In the game, Hart started fast. On the Rams first series, Hart and Hardman caught Rams running back Lawrence McCutcheon for a seven-yard loss. Hart then proceeded to draw a holding call John Williams, the man assigned to block Hart, got flagged. Williams was about to have the worst night of his NFL life and it was just beginning.

Hart then took Harris down for a five-yard loss for his first sack of the night.

The storm calmed for the rest of the first half with the score tied at 0-0. 

The 49ers quickly scored to open the second half, moving the ball in chunks and Plunkett hit wide receiver Willie McGee (a former Ram) for a 36-yard touchdown to conclude a four-play drive. They were up 7-0.

In the first series of the second half, Hart got his second sack, this one for 15 yards, and this time Shack Harris lost the football (Hart's first forced fumble of the game) and the 49ers ended up with the ball at the Rams five-yard line. 

After four plays Plunkett threw another touchdown pass to make the game 13-0. A botched snap on the conversion attempt cost the 49ers the extra point.

On the first play of the second half's second drive, Hart took Harris down for a seven-yard loss. He had sack number three and forced fumble number two as Harris lost the ball again and the 49ers converted it into a field goal after a five-play drive.

The 49ers had a lead of 16-0. 

The 49ers front four continued to pressure Harris the rest of the who had to scramble to evade the rush and had to run for his life on a 19-yard completion to McCutcheon and on another play he had to throw the ball left-handed to avoid a sack. The Rams offense was a mess.

The fourth quarter began with Hart's fourth sack (for a 10-yard loss) and midway through the quarter, he got his fifth sack, this one a 12-yard loss.

The Rams got the ball with 2:25 left in the game and managed to get a couple of first downs, but on the fifth play of the last Los Angeles drive, Hart caused Harris's third fumble resulting in sack number six.

It was about as bad as an offense can be beaten down.

In addition to the ten sacks, the Rams were flagged for holding three times and the 49ers defense tackled Rams runners five times in the backfield making it a total of eighteen negative plays.

Yes, eighteen. 

Ten sacks for 97 yards, five tackles for loss resulting in 16 yards of losses, and three holding calls on passing plays for 27 more yards in losses totaling 140 negative yards when the Rams tried to pass.

Hart totaled seven tackles including six sacks for 58 yards, and three forced fumbles, and was in on one of the tackles for loss and drew one holding penalty for 71.5 yards lost. That was more yardage than the 49ers leading ball carrier who had 69 yards.

In the post-game locker room, Hart declared, "That was the greatest game of my carrier." Hart also marked that they stopped the Ground Chuck (Knox) offense, the vaulted Rams running game. "they have the greatest running game in the conference . . . we stopped them and that's the difference.

Knox told the gathered media, "They have one of the most active defensive lines in the league. They just got us into situations they wanted us in. We tried adjusting our blocking assignments but it just got to be 3rd and 10 and here they come."

Los Angeles Times columnist John Hall wrote in an understatement, "That wild-eyed charging front might be very good."

Hart finished the season with 16 sacks and 12 tackles for loss and gained plenty of post-season honors:  consensus All-Pro, Pro Bowl, All-NFC but the relatively unknown left defensive end also received was a lot of recognition for the first time in his career.

Here is the play-by-play of Hart's eight sacks in the first five games—

So, if Bosa gets a sack he ties Board for the official record, but it would be great for him to get two or three to either tie or surpass Hart to really be the leader, unofficial or not. Hart is a player that should be remembered and get some more recognition if Bosa can match his sack total. It was quite a performance that October night in the Los Angeles Coliseum, John Hall might even say it was, "very good." 

We'll be watching.

No comments:

Post a Comment