3. Terrell Suggs probably won't win Defensive Player of the Year. But the Ravens defense would have been lost without him this season. This actually didn't feel like one of Suggs' better games. He's been struggling to generate pressure ever since San Diego demonstrated that the best way to keep Suggs from blowing up your quarterback was to use a tight end or a running back to help out your tackle with a chip block. He also played a role in letting Bernard Scott break free for a 25-yard touchdown run, as he got pinned inside when he tried to shoot a gap. (He admitted after the game that the play was his fault, and told Ray Lewis he owed him one.) But one thing that always impresses me about Suggs is that he rarely jogs when the ball is still live, even if the play is away from him. It's actually true that he plays the game with the enthusiasm of a kid, and he'll be the first to tell you that. But that's one of the reasons he made the biggest defensive play of the game when he poked the ball out of Jermaine Gresham's right hand. It was a screen pass, on the opposite side of the field from Suggs, and no one would have noticed if he'd simply decided to jog behind the ball under the assumption someone else was going to make the tackle. Instead, he came flying in from behind the ball, poked the ball out, and rescued the Ravens' exhausted defense yet again. The reason I don't think he'll end up winning Defensive Player of the Year is that sacks are simply too sexy of a statistic for voters to ignore. Jared Allen of the Vikings finished with 22, just half a sack shy of the NFL record, and that's going to sway a lot of votes, even though the Vikings went 3-13. Even Jason Pierre-Paul and DeMarcus Ware, despite playing on defenses that aren't particularly good, are going to get a lot of votes. It's simply too hard for the layperson to understand many of the things Suggs does so well, like seal off the back side on running plays, or force runs back inside because he doesn't rush up field and let runners sneak underneath him. (Dwight Freeney does that constantly.) It's hard to tell how Baltimore's defense would hold up against a team like New England. The Patriots' athletic tight ends could give the Ravens a ton of problems. At the moment, Ray Lewis looks slow and Ed Reed looks timid. But as long as they've got Suggs charging off the edge or chasing down plays, they've got a chance.
Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.