‘I’m at a loss for words’: Robert Quinn didn’t want full credit after breaking Richard Dent’s Chicago Bears record for sacks in a season

When the timeout came with 8 minutes, 6 seconds remaining Sunday, when a moment presented itself for Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy to shine the spotlight on a man who doesn’t typically like to revel in his own achievement, Robert Quinn was about the only person inside Soldier Field who didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

A pause in the action? On second-and-17? For what?

“I was trying to figure out what was going on,” Quinn said. “Why did we stop?”

On the previous play, Quinn had taken a wide loop around New York Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas, found quarterback Mike Glennon in the pocket and clubbed the football loose with his right arm. Just for good measure, he heaved Glennon to the ground as the ball squirted free, disposing of the 6-foot-7 quarterback as if he were roadkill being cleared to the side of a road.

History had been made.

During the Bears’ 29-3 laugher victory, that was Quinn’s 18th sack of the season, breaking a 37-year-old single-season franchise record. Hall of Famer Richard Dent is no longer at the top of the list in that category. Quinn is. And deservedly so.

“It’s an honor,” he said.

But of course, Quinn added a sincerely modest shrug to that assertion.

“I just have to make sure I keep building my resume the right way,” he added. “At the end of the day, I just keep doing my job.”

Naturally, Nagy felt an urge to let his entire team, his coaching staff and the devoted fans in the Soldier Field stands appreciate the moment. With a 26-point lead, he had no issues using his first timeout.

“It just kind of happened naturally and organically,” Nagy said.

The public address announcer pronounced Quinn as the Bears’ new sack king. A standing ovation ensued.

About time too. Quinn entered the day well aware he needed one sack to break Dent’s mark. And if he hadn’t known, his defensive teammates were there to remind him. Many of the fans behind the Bears bench were in his ear too.

“People wouldn’t let me forget about it,” Quinn said. “Every time (it was like), ‘Get it! Get it!’ I’m just (thinking), ‘Can you let me get it and then we’ll talk about it?’ … I was trying to just brush it off and play football.”

For the first nine Giants possessions, Quinn went without a sack. On the final play of the first quarter, he had Glennon in his arms 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage when the Giants quarterback desperately flipped the ball to running back Devontae Booker in the backfield for a gain of 4.

(That was, for the record, the Giants’ lone completion of the first half.)

“I thought the refs were going to blow the play dead,” Quinn said. “But they didn’t.”

So Quinn, as he has done all season, kept at it. Fellow outside linebacker Trevis Gipson added to the incentive, collecting two strip-sacks of his own Sunday and sending notice that Quinn might really have to work to reach his milestone.

“He was heating up early,” Quinn said. “And he had me stressing.”

When Quinn finally cleared the hurdle, even he felt a sense of pride — in his low-key and humble Carolinas manner.

“I’m at a loss for words,” he said. “Again, I’m just doing my job. I’m out there with my brothers and just doing what I can to make the most of our opportunities.”

On Saturday, Quinn spoke with Dent, taking a memorable phone call as he was driving home. “The Sack Man” — the MVP of Super Bowl XX and one of the Bears’ 30 representatives in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — called to offer congratulations on a wonderful season.

Did Dent try to add context to the 17½ sacks he compiled in 1984? Sure he did. He told Quinn he started only 10 games that year.

Did Dent really want Quinn to break his record? Maybe. But probably not.

“Does anybody want their records broken?” Quinn said with a laugh. “I think he was excited. But not really, you know?”

Regardless, Quinn felt thrilled to set the record in this season’s 16th game, not needing the tack-on of the new Week 18 to break Dent’s mark. It’s also worth noting Quinn now leads the NFL in sacks this season, and he surpassed 100 for his career. He needs one more sack in next week’s finale against the Minnesota Vikings to match his personal-best season in 2013 with the St. Louis Rams.

After a dispiriting 2020 season in Chicago — in which Quinn recorded a sack on his first snap as Bear but only one more over his final 14 games — this year’s resurgence has been nothing short of remarkable.

“He shut everybody up,” Gipson said.

Still, Quinn keeps these kind of bounce-backs in perspective. When he was in high school, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Doctors told him his football career was likely over. His life was in jeopardy. So the resilience needed to bounce back from a two-sack season hasn’t been hard to muster.

“Overcoming a terrible season is pretty easy compared to being 17, lying in a hospital bed and thinking you might not make it,” Quinn said. “Football’s football. Life is a little more important to me.”

Nagy expressed his profound admiration for how Quinn practices the same way he plays.

“What a great person to look up to and see (that) if you practice like this, this is what can happen,” Nagy said.

On an afternoon in which the Bears defense recorded its first of four sacks and first of four takeaways on the first snap of the game, it was fitting for Quinn to add the exclamation point.

Poor Glennon dropped back to pass only 16 times. In those 16 plays, he had just four completions, fumbled four times and threw two interceptions.

With 8:06 left, Quinn came for him. Or more exactly, he came to finish off a blowout victory and set a prestigious Bears record in the process.

As he stood in his uniform during a postgame news conference, Quinn put himself back in that moment. He had his usual half-smile and his deep and slow southern cadence.

“I was just trying to get off on the ball as fast as I can, like any pass rusher wants to,” he said. “And I had that one good jump. I knew I had the corner, so the quarterback was still there. The secondary had their men (covered); the guys held up. And I was able to make history.”

Naturally, Quinn didn’t want and wouldn’t accept full credit.

“Of course,” he said, “thank you to everyone on defense that was out there with me to allow that to happen.”

Within the locker room, you can bet Quinn’s defensive teammates laughed at that acknowledgement.

You’re welcome, Rob. Of course.