Donald's pursuit of Strahan's NFL sacks record in Opta numbers
Aaron Donald is chasing an NFL record that has stood since 2001 and the numbers suggest the Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle is on course to eclipse Michael Strahan's sacks total from 17 years ago.
Through 12 games of the 2018 season, Rams DT Donald is being talked about as a potential MVP having accumulated 16.5 sacks despite not registering his first until Week 4.
And so while his team may have already sewn up the NFC West title and a subsequent playoff berth, attention has turned to whether Donald can break Strahan's long-standing record.
Here we take a look at the Opta numbers behind Donald's season.
Neck-and-neck with Strahan through Week 13
With 16.5 sacks after 12 games, Donald has as many as Hall of Famer Strahan did at that same stage with the New York Giants in 2001.
Unstoppable. pic.twitter.com/SG12B2mel9— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) December 2, 2018
Strahan came within touching distance of the record having been credited with 3.5 sacks in a Week 16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and he controversially made history when he sacked his close friend Brett Favre in the final game.
Only ex-San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith (17.5 sacks in 2012) has ever recorded more sacks than Donald after a dozen games.
A destructive force in December
To become a record-breaker Donald needs to maintain his brilliant recent performances.
Fortunately for him, December has been his most productive month in previous campaigns.
He averages 0.9 sacks per game in the month and needs just 3.5 more in his final four games to reach 20. That is a figure that has only been achieved on six occasions previously - twice by Houston Texans star J.J. Watt, who is the only man to reach the mark more than once (in 2012 and 2014).
Rams run-in offers hope
Donald will be licking his lips at the thought of the Rams' final four opponents.
The Chicago Bears, Eagles, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers are all in the top half of the league for sacks allowed.
Both Arizona and San Francisco are allowing sacks on over nine per cent of their pass attempts this season, which puts the two franchises in the top 10 for the highest percentages for that statistic.
Donald's chief concern may be that the Rams claim the NFC's number-one seed before the final game of the season and opt to rest him in Week 17 against the Niners.
If history beckons, you can be sure Donald will want to be out there.