Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs waits on the sidelines during… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
Is there any sizzle left in T-Sizzle?
That's the question of the week as the Ravens prepare to play the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. There were concerns about Terrell Suggs' performances in recent weeks, but now those are at the forefront after Suggs had no solo tackles, no assists, no pressures and no sacks in the Ravens 18-16 win against the Detroit Lions on Monday night.
Where's the fizz, Sizz?
No one seems to know.
"We just got to get him going again," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.
Ever since he started the season with nine sacks in the first eight games and looked like he might be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the five-time Pro Bowl performer has been MIA instead of the team MVP.
In the last five games, Suggs has 10 total tackles. In the last six games, he has zero sacks.
"You certainly have to be aware of him," New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I think he and [Elvis] Dumervil have gotten a lot of attention out there on the edge. Quarterbacks are just trying to throw the ball quick or keep an extra guy in protection to try to slow them down a little bit. "
Belichick is just being polite because there is no need to wake up the sleeping giant. But after watching Suggs play the last six weeks, you have to wonder if something is wrong. There is no explosion off the ball and very little acceleration in pursuing a quarterback.
When he first came to Baltimore 11 years ago there were natural comparisons to former Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware because both could bring heat off the corner, but Suggs had what Boulware didn't which was a muscular upper body that allowed him to toss offensive tackles.
That hasn't been on display in nearly two months.
"I don't feel banged up; I'm going to be all right," Suggs told reporters earlier this week. "As long as there's air in my lungs, I'm going to be out there playing."
There are questions about if an injury is involved in the six-game streak without a sack. Players don't like to divulge information that information because it might give an opponent an edge. But Suggs hasn't played well since he suffered a foot injury right before the Cincinnati Bengals game on Nov. 10.
When you watch him play, there is no plant and push off. Twice late in the fourth quarter of the last two games, Suggs took only three steps and basically gave in. He looked like he did last year while trying to rebound from Achilles and biceps injuries.
Also against Detroit, Suggs was off the field quickly in the first and third quarters for considerable time. Were the Ravens resting him to have a strong fourth quarter or because of injury?
Over at The Castle, they say Suggs isn't hurt.
"No," said Pees, when asked directly. "He has been doing some other things to help us out a little bit. Coverage things, things maybe we should get away from. He has been hitting guys before they go out, holding them up."
Suggs has done some flip-flopping from strong side to the weak side with Dumervil, but that came after Suggs stopped getting penetration. At age 31, you start questioning if Suggs has hit the downside of his career.
That doesn't appear logical because of the way he started the season, but it's true that one night you have it and the next morning you don't regardless of the profession.
Suggs has been in the league 11 years and started 147 of 163 games. Earlier in the year, he was exceptional against the run and worked well down the line of scrimmage. Since the Chicago game on Nov. 17, opposing teams have been able to bounce outside on him and he lost containment Monday night on Reggie Bush's 14-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Maybe it's a combination of age and injury, but this isn't the same Suggs. The Ravens have tried to protect him with excuses saying teams are double-teaming him and turning their protection toward him but that was all earlier in the season.
The last team that seriously attacked Suggs consistently was the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 13. Since then, no one fears The Sizzle.
Earlier this season Suggs played with power and finesse. Besides the quick change of direction, he could bullrush tackles. One of his trademarks was his second or third move, and his relentless desire to get to the quarterback.
But now, his angles are bad and that desire doesn't appear as strong. Those things have disappeared in the middle of the Ravens bid for a playoff berth.
So far this week Suggs has been relatively quiet. That's a surprise especially since Suggs like to poke fun at New England quarterback Tom Brady.
But Suggs will probably play a good game this week. When a great player is challenged, regardless of age or injury, they find something in reserve to play well. Ray Lewis was like that, and so was Ed Reed.
If Suggs is in that mold, he'll deliver as well. The Ravens need a great game from him. It's about time.