ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is already moving on to Broncos' next game, but it's hard not to linger on his September, during which he recorded 3.5 sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 10 total tackles as the Broncos' most productive pass rusher, earning the AFC Defensive Player of the Month award, the first of his career for either conference.
"I don't know what's wrong with the Dallas PR or whatever," Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips joked. "He had 20 sacks, he tied Simon Fletcher's record for 10-straight games of sacks. He did that when we were at Dallas. How he wasn't a Defensive Player of the Month amazes me."
Indeed, it's stunning that it took Ware—four times an All-Pro, eight times a Pro Bowler, twice the NFL's season leader in sacks, the 2008 NFC Defensive Player of the Year—11 years to get the honor.
"I just feel like I opened that 1982 bottle of wine and I'm drinking it right now," Ware said.
And with that, here's a look back at some of Ware's most productive months and who recorded their own incredible stretch of games and won the award instead.
Who won it: Brian Dawkins. Then an Eagle, Dawkins was at the peak of his talents and was named an All-Pro that season. In four games, Dawkins had 32 total tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, one sack and the Eagles won each game. One of the interceptions set up a game-winning field goal.
Ware's case: 28 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and the Cowboys went 2-3. He returned the interception 41 yards for a touchdown.
Who won it: Charles Woodson. He had 10 total tackles, three interceptions and nine passes defensed as the Packers went 2-2. Woodson returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns.
Ware's case: 21 total tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble as the Cowboys went 3-1. This was the beginning of Ware's best season as he went on to become the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, an All-Pro, a Pro Bowler and the recipient of the Butkus Award.
Who won it: Jon Beason. With 32 total tackles, two interceptions, two passes defensed, Beason helped lead the Panthers to a 3-1 record on the month, including one shutout. Beason was an All-Pro that season.
Ware's case: 23 total tackles, five sacks, one pass defensed. Despite continued brilliance from Ware, the Cowboys went 1-3 during October and the defense gave up 28 points per game.
Who won it: Julius Peppers. The NFC Defensive Player of the Month award stayed with the Panthers after the defensive end recorded 19 total tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and Carolina again went 3-1 that month.
Ware's case: 18 total tackles, six sacks, one forced fumble and Dallas went 3-1. Oh, the difference one sack can make.
Who won it: Charles Woodson. Woodson bookended the year with outstanding defensive play, recording 21 total tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed and one sack in December as Green Bay stumbled to a 1-3 finish.
Ware's case: 22 total tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles. The Cowboys also stumbled to a 1-3 finish.
Who won it: Ware's teammate Sean Lee. The linebacker had 28 total tackles, three tackles for loss, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries. One interception return was nearly a touchdown but the replay booth reviewed it and spotted him down at the 1-yard line.
Ware's case: Nine total tackles and five sacks in three games. This kicked off another All-Pro, Butkus Award-winning season as Ware would finish with 19.5 sacks.
Who won it: Jared Allen. One of the few active players with more career sacks than Ware, Allen had an incredible October with 20 total tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two passes defensed as the Vikings went 2-3. Allen finished the season with 22 sacks, just one half of a sack short of tying Michael Strahan's NFL single-season record.
Ware's case: 22 total tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles. Ware had one fewer sack, but he also had one fewer game. However, the Cowboys went 1-3 in that span.
Who won it: Richard Sherman. Sherman had 11 total tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed and the Seahawks went 4-0. The clincher was that he returned one of his interceptions for a touchdown against Houston to tie the game at 20 with 2:40 left in regulation. Seattle went on to win.
Ware's case: 10 total tackles, four sacks, one interception. Another month with an average of one sack each week, but Ware's interception did not go for a game-tying touchdown.