It's been difficult to come up with new and interesting ways to describe the effect Terrell Suggs is having on opposing teams this year, but John Harbaugh might have managed to boil the praise of Suggs down to succinct perfection on Sunday.
"Terrell Suggs was just a game-wrecker," Harbaugh said, trying to sum up how the Ravens linebacker played in the team's 24-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts. "He was a game-wrecker in the run. He was a game-wrecker in the pass rush."
The Colts were inclined to agree, especially after Suggs ruined their day by sacking quarterback Dan Orlovsky three times, forcing three fumbles. Suggs also played a key role in holding Indianapolis to just 50 yards rushing. He was, once again, the catalyst for the Ravens defense, physically and emotionally.
"He's just a phenomenal player," said Ravens defensive end Cory Redding. "The guy is blessed with many talents, from his skill to his mouth. I just love to go out there on the field and compete with him. He's so into the game at all times. He's constantly thinking about how he can exploit an offensive line and get a sack. Sizzle is really having a great year."
When the game was all but wrapped up and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano tried to take Suggs out of the game, the linebacker begged to stay in. He was having too much fun, and wanted to try and hold the Colts under 100 yards of total offense. The Ravens couldn't quite do it, but by the time the final whistle blew, Orlovsky had been running away from Suggs so much he looked like a exhausted, broken man.
"He's as good a pass-rusher as I've played against," said Orlovsky. "I can't say anything [bad] about him as a football player."
"He was on top of his game today," said Colts coach Jim Caldwell. "He was a force."
It was the third time this season Suggs has recorded three sacks in game, and he now has 13 on the year, a new career high that surpasses the 12 he recorded in 2003. It's becoming more and more apparent each week that Suggs is having the best season of his career. If he's not already the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL, he's certainly in the conversation.
"He's got to be in the running for MVP," said Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson.
Suggs can make a pretty compelling argument on statistics alone. He's just no longer interested in making it with his mouth. Not while the season is going on.
"It only counts if we get to Indy and the confetti drops," Suggs said. "I don't really care [otherwise]. I can't help it if you all talk about it. People are talking about it. But what does it matter if we lose our first playoff game? What does anything that any of us have achieved this year mean? Nothing. It's short lived. It don't last forever. But championships do."
It's been fascinating to watch the ways in which Suggs has matured over the years, while at the same time holding on to the goofy and playful aspects of his personality that make him one of the NFL's most charismatic players. After Sunday's victory, he was bouncing around the locker room wearing nothing but a towel, pretending to be a reporter by stick his head into a scrum of media gathered around wide receiver Torrey Smith. He punched his cell phone number into a teammate's iPhone so Suggs could track him down for the post-game celebration. One of his favorite things to do each week is give away Ravens tickets through his Twitter account (@untouchablejay4) for fans who answer movie trivia he throws out at odd hours.
But he's also become one of the hardest workers on the team. Time he used to spend watching movies is now spent on watching game film. And how he presents himself matters, too. On Sunday, he asked reporters to wait a minute so he could put on a suit before answering questions, remarking that Ray Lewis taught him years ago he should never do an on-camera interview after a game without first looking his best.
The reverence Suggs has for Lewis is obvious. In fact, if you believe Suggs has become the most important leader on the Ravens with Lewis missing the last four games, Suggs couldn't disagree more.
"Don't be fooled, this is still Ray Lewis' team," Suggs said. "He is still the general of this team, and he has a personal relationship with everybody on this team, and it's showing. His presence is still very much there. When we come off the field, we are still getting an earful from him. We're just holding the levees until he gets back."
Is Suggs playing the best football of his career? John Harbaugh, who typically doesn't like to answer questions that draw comparisons, wouldn't say.
"I haven't thought about it," Harbaugh said. "It's a good question. He's playing great football."
There is a trophy that's presented to the winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year each season. Suggs would give up the chance to touch it, just to feel the confetti that rains down on the Super Bowl winner at the end of each year. A week never goes by when he doesn't think about it.
"None of it matters if I don't get that [piece] of football immortality," Suggs said. "And every game is one step closer."
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