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Darius Leonard Breaks Jerrell Freeman’s Single-Season Rookie Tackle Record

Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz (86) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Darius Leonard (53) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard’s unbelievable rookie season took another step on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, as he broke Jerrell Freeman’s franchise record for tackles in a rookie season.

Leading the NFL with 135 tackles entering Sunday’s Week 15 contest at Lucas Oil Stadium, Leonard compiled the 11 tackles needed to break Freeman’s record (145) with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was his seventh double-digit tackle game of the year.

Freeman was a tackling machine himself in 2012, as his 145 tackles rank eighth in NFL history for total stops by a rookie, according to Pro Football Reference.

The all-time record of tackles in a season by a rookie is 174, set by Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers in 2007. Leonard entered Sunday's game needing to average about 13 tackles a game — about three more than his 10 tackles-per-game average — to break Willis' all-time rookie record.

Leonard now has another feather in his cap toward earning the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He has stuffed the stat sheets throughout the year, adding seven sacks and four forced fumbles, both of which lead all NFL off-ball linebackers. Leonard also has 11 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries and one interception.

For his efforts thus far, Leonard was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for September, AFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 2, and twice the NFL Rookie of the Week for his performances in Weeks 2 and 8.

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