After being on hiatus all season, I thought it was time for the return of the “Play Like a Raven” feature. One Raven in particular has so embodied everything that it means to Play Like a Raven here in 2011 that he pretty much deserves his own award (much like 2009 and 2010’s “Play Like a Raven” features became “Play Like a Ray Rice”). For now though, let’s take it one step at a time.
Played Like a Raven – Terrell Suggs
Sizzle was an absolute monster again Sunday, recording three sacks of Colts’ quarterback Dan Orlovsky and forcing Danny to fumble on every single one. The fact that his fellow lineman were unable to fall on even one of those fumbles hardly diminish Suggs’ contribution. It was the third time this season – and the second time in the last three games – that Sizzle has enjoyed a triple-sack lunch. Number 3 on Sunday gave him 13 for the season, a new career high. His previous high of 12 came in his rookie year of 2003; the truly impressive thing to note is that back then Suggs was pretty much only asked to rush the passer, while in 2011 he is also one of the best run-defending 3-4 outside linebacker/defensive ends in the NFL.
Just look at the tackle/sack numbers:
2003: 12 sacks, 27 tackles
2011: 13 sacks, 58 tackles
His six caused fumbles for the year also match his career high, again from 2003.
Sizzle’s 13 sacks lead the AFC and put him at #4 overall in the NFL. The three guys ahead of him on the list (Minnesota’s Jared Allen, Dallas’s Demarcus Ware, and Philadelphia’s Jason Babin) all trail Suggs in pretty much every other statistic, including forced fumbles, passes defended, interceptions, and total tackles.
Suggs needs just two sacks over the final three games to tie the Ravens’ franchise record of 15, set by Peter Boulware in 2001.
Although he’s going up against a guy who is very familiar with him – former Raven Jared Gaither – on Sunday, the bet here is that he continues his typical prime-time dominance and at least ties the record in San Diego.
Sizzle is making an extremely strong case to join Ray Lewis and Ed Reed as Ravens who have won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award. If he can continue his incredible season over the final three games, it will not only help him solidify that bid, but should go a long way in helping the Ravens lock up the AFC North title and – hopefully – the conference’s #1 overall Playoff seed.
Did Not Play Like a Raven – Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie
While Suggs was busy getting after the Colts’ quarterback on the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens’ offensive tackles were busy getting their butts kicked by the Indy pass rushers on the other side.
I’ll let the guys from Pro Football Focus break it down:
For a team with genuine Super Bowl aspirations I have one major bone of contention with the Ravens; offensive tackles Bryant McKinnie (-0.8) and Michael Oher (-2.8), especially considering Joe Flacco’s struggles under pressure. Oher hit form mid season between Weeks 8 and 10 but was back to his usual sub-par standard on Sunday, giving up three total pressures. McKinnie has struggled all year with just one game where has graded out higher than +0.9 and Sunday was no different as he failed to make an impact in the run game while giving up a sack and a pressure in pass protection. Baltimore have managed some big wins this season but as we head towards the playoffs they need to get better play from their tackles to allow Flacco time to find all the weapons at his disposal.
We’ll give McKinnie and Oher a little bit of slack here, as nobody can deny the prowess of Messrs. Freeney and Mathis. However, it hasn’t been a one-week thing. As PFF points out, Oher has only had one really good stretch all season (weeks 8-10), and McKinnie has never been much in a Ravens uniform. After the opening play of the season – the big Ray Rice run that went right to Bryant’s side – we all envisioned big things from the mountain of a man holding down the left side. Since, though, he has been decent in pass protection and flat out poor in run blocking, especially when asked to seal off the back side pursuit.
With as strong as the Ravens’ interior linemen – center Matt Birk and guards Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs – have played all season, it’s a shame that these two former first round draft picks can’t perform better on the edges.
Fortunately, the Ravens’ next two opponents rank near the bottom of the NFL in sacks. Neither San Diego (#29 – 22 sacks) nor Cleveland (#24 – 25) have been able to get after quarterbacks well. As we saw in Week 13 though, when Oher allowed Browns’ defensive end Jabaal Sheard to get to Flacco and force a fumble, it only takes one lapse to potentially change a game.
At this point it’s probably not realistic to expect McKinnie to suddenly start to play like his old self. Oher, though, should be able to pick it up again as he did during the middle of the year. The teams that B’More is likely to see in the playoffs – Denver, Pittsburgh, Houston – can all get after the passer with startling regularity. There is no room for poor tackle play, especially from a guy as young and talented as Oher.
Step it up, Michael (on the bright side, he has at least been mostly penalty-free lately).