Former Pitt star Aaron Donald had a career day with the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, as he amassed nine tackles, including six tackles for a loss and a career-high four sacks, in an NFC West matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Thanks in part to Donald’s dominance, the Rams would go on to post a 39-10 win, improving to an impressive 7-0 on the season.
After the game, Donald credited his manhandling of the 49ers linemen to “just being strong” and noted that he had a loftier goal in mind than the four sacks he ended up recording.
“My daughter wanted me to get 10 and my son wanted me to get three, so I hope they’re going to be happy with four,” he told reporters.
For comparison, Donald’s previous personal-best sack total at the pro and collegiate levels was three, and he only accomplished that feat on three occasions — once when Pitt played Utah on Oct. 15, 2011; once when the St. Louis Rams played the Detroit Lions on Dec. 13, 2015; and once when the Los Angeles Rams played the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 17, 2017.
Donald got off to a relatively slow start to the season in terms of production, as he did not get a sack until Week 4. However, since then, he’s been on a tear, as he has gotten to the quarterback at least once in every game. Factoring in Sunday’s numbers, Donald now has a league-leading eight sacks on the season as well as 26 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and 13 quarterback hits.
In addition to obliterating a weak 49ers offensive line that ranks second in the NFL in sacks allowed, Donald also made a difference in the turnover battle. Late in the first quarter, the defensive tackle closed in on 49ers running back Matt Breida, stripped the ball and recovered the fumble in what appeared to be a single motion.
All told, Donald’s performance against the 49ers served as a clear justification of the six-year, $135 million contract the Rams organization awarded him this offseason, placing him among the highest paid defensive players in the league. He’ll look to extend his run of solid play into Week 8, when the Rams head home to face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.