"A sack and a fumble—and we recover. The double whammy!" Strahan says. "You know what my favorite part of the sack is, most times? I look over at our bench, and our coaches are jumping up and down. After the game Kurt came up to me and said, 'Michael, I'm going to feel this the next few weeks.' I liked that."
Strahan needs six sacks in his last four games to break Gastineau's record, and it won't come easily. "Here's what people don't realize," he saws. "I'm lining up against a guy they think I should handle, so I should get a sack or two. They don't realize I'm playing against that running back too on some plays, and that tight end, and that guard. I'm playing against a coach who's going to do everything he can to keep me away from his quarterback. When we played the Vikings, I was saying something to the ref about one of the numerous nonholding calls, and Mike Tice, Minnesota's offensive line coach, yelled, 'Come on, Strahan, just play!' I said to him, 'You leave this kid out here by himself, and I'll embarrass him.' In the heat of the moment you say macho things like that. Tice looked at me like I was nuts and said, 'You think I'm crazy?'
"The roughest game was against Dallas [on Nov. 4]. From most of the second quarter on, I'd have three guys looking for me on most pass plays. You face the tackle every play. You go inside, and the guard is there to hit you. You go outside, and the back is there. They just built a wall."
Strahan says he thinks about the record, and who can blame him? The only preeminent tackle he'll face the rest of the season is the Philadelphia Eagles' Jon Runyan, on Dec. 30. "It's not as if I'm in a game thinking, I gotta get a sack. I gotta keep pace," Strahan says. "If I do, then I'm out of my game. I have to be focused on my assignment, on the moment. I can't focus on the future.
"It's going to be harder now than it was early in the year. You saw what happened to Barry Bonds. No one wanted to pitch to him when he got close to the home run record. Who wants to be the tackle who gets beat for the record sack? Who wants to be the team? I'm not asking them not to pitch to me. I'm just saying, Once in a while, leave me with a guy, alone, and let's see what I can do."