Monthly Archives: December 2019

Baltimore is Built-For-More: Defending NFL Defenses

Image result for baltimore ravens defense

By Ben Kelley

December 2, 2019

Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.

If you’ve ever played EA Sports’ Madden NFL 2005, then you might remember the video game’s selling point: the hit-stick. The “hit-stick” was a new feature that allowed you to force a heavy hit onto a ball-carrier by flicking the right stick of a video game controller. EA Sports had a simple reason for introducing the concept: in Madden NFL 2004, users were having trouble with stopping the electric dual-threat quarterback Michael Vick, and players needed a defensive counter. That counter would become the “hit-stick” (“Top 25 features in Madden,” 2013).

Ray Lewis, a former inside linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, appeared on the cover of Madden NFL 2005. With Lewis and the hit-stick headlining the game, Madden NFL 2005 took on a defensive approach to virtual football gaming.

It’s now 2019, and quarterback turnover has become a common theme throughout the current NFL season. As the league approaches the fourteenth week of regular-season competition, eighty-six quarterbacks have attempted at least one pass during a game. Of those eighty-six quarterbacks, only sixteen have started twelve games this season. Out of those sixteen, only nine have winning records as starters (“NFL passing,” 2019). Five of those quarterbacks play for a team with a top-six defense in points allowed; four of those starters have a defense ranked in the top-four in points allowed (“NFL opposition & defensive statistics,” 2019).

One team with consistent quarterback play and a top defensive unit is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens currently have the sixth-best defense and have compiled ten wins and only two losses. Their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, has statistically lit up the league this season. Jackson has thrown for 2,532 yards with a pass-completion percentage of 66.5%, with twenty-five passing touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2019 (“NFL passing,” 2019). In addition, Jackson has rushed for 977 yards and seven touchdowns this season (for comparison, Jackson is currently ranked eighth in rushing yards in the NFL) (“NFL rushing,” 2019).

Sports media has taken note of Lamar’s play in 2019. Sean Wagner-McGough (2019) of CBS Sports claims “Jackson is our MVP after 12 weeks” (para 2). Zach Frydenlaud (2019) of Complex not only thinks that Jackson has the MVP award wrapped up, but that Jackson “is the future of the league at QB” (para 6).

However, Baltimore’s defense deserves a share of the credit. Baltimore’s defense is currently ranked sixth in points allowed, and they’ve caused nineteen turnovers in 2019. Only New England, San Francisco, Buffalo, Minnesota, and Chicago sit ahead of the Ravens in points allowed, and each of these teams has a winning record. Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Dallas each sit behind Baltimore in points allowed, and each of those teams are at .500 or above. As a whole, the top nine defenses in points allowed all have a record at .500 or higher.

New England and San Francisco each own a record of 10-2, yet their quarterbacks are not playing at the highest of levels. Tom Brady currently holds the 21st best quarterback rating, and Jimmy Garoppolo holds the 10th best quarterback rating (“NFL passing,” 2019). Tennessee is on their second quarterback of the season, and they’re 7-5. Chicago’s quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, has a rating of 84.4 for 24th place, yet the Bears have a record of 6-5 (“NFL passing,” 2019). Pittsburgh is now relying on their third quarterback this season, yet the Steelers sit at seven wins and five losses.

While scrambling dual-threat quarterbacks may appear to be the future of the NFL, strong defensive play is making its case to be labeled as “the future of the NFL.” Each of the top nine defenses in points allowed this season have kept their teams in playoff contention, despite below-average quarterback play or turnover at the position. It’s as if we’re living in the world of Madden NFL 2005, and the “hit-stick” has made its appearance.

References

2019 NFL opposition & defensive statistics. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/opp.htm

2019 NFL passing. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/passing.htm

2019 NFL rushing. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/rushing.htm#rushing_and_receiving::rush_yds

2019 NFL standings & team stats. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/

Frydenlaud, Z. (2019, November 25). Lamar Jackson is not only the NFL MVP but the future of the league. Complex. Retrieved from https://www.complex.com/sports/2019/11/lamar-jackson-mvp-and-future

Top 25 features in Madden NFL history. (2013, August 2). EA Sports. Retrieved from https://www.easports.com/madden-nfl/news/2013/madden-football-history

Wagner-McGough, S. (2019, December 1). NFL MVP race, week 13: Lamar Jackson begins to pull away from Russell Wilson, Stephon Gilmore makes his debut. CBS Sports. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-mvp-race-week-13-lamar-jackson-begins-to-pull-away-from-russell-wilson-stephon-gilmore-makes-his-debut/

Myles Garrett fight overshadows rivalry victory for Cleveland Browns, leads to indefinite suspension

By Pershelle Rohrer

December 1, 2019

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-7 in the week 11 Thursday Night Football matchup on November 14. Baker Mayfield threw for two touchdowns and rushed for one in the victory, giving the Browns a record of 4-6 and putting them back in the playoff race. Cleveland’s win over Pittsburgh (5-5) should have been something to celebrate, as it was just their fourth win over their division rival in the past ten years (“Browns, Steelers brawl,” 2019). However, a fight that broke out in the last eight seconds of the game overshadowed anything positive that happened in the Browns’ second straight win.

On the second to last snap of the game, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett brought down Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph well after Rudolph had completed a pass. Rudolph attempted to remove Garrett’s helmet, kicking him while they were still on the ground. Garrett then tore off Rudolph’s helmet and hit him on the top of the head with it when Rudolph followed him to retrieve it, causing the benches to clear. Garrett was ejected along with teammate Larry Ogunjobi, who shoved Rudolph to the ground just after the helmet incident, and Maurkice Pouncey, who then punched and kicked Garrett in retaliation. 

The NFL issued suspensions to all three ejected players. Garrett was suspended indefinitely with a minimum ban for the remainder of the season, Pouncey was given a three-game ban, and Ogunjobi sat out one week. All three players appealed their suspensions, and Pouncey’s was reduced to two games as a result, according to ESPN (“Myles Garrett’s indefinite,” 2019). Rudolph received a $50,000 fine for his actions, and both teams were fined $250,000 each.

Garrett was immediately criticized by the media, fans, and players alike. Troy Aikman, current Fox commentator and former NFL player, called Garrett’s actions “barbaric” (“Browns, Steelers brawl,” 2019, para. 11). Reggie Bush (2019) tweeted that it “might have been the craziest thing I have seen on a football field!”

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said the incident would become “a soap opera on the outside much like the media has portrayed us to be for the whole season” (“Browns, Steelers brawl,” 2019, para. 13). The Browns have faced growing pains with a revamped roster in their first season under head coach Freddie Kitchens. The win against the Steelers was their second straight, but losing Garrett for the season could potentially hurt the Browns’ playoff chances as the defense has to make up for the loss of their star defender. 

Following the game, the media took turns speculating about the length of Garrett’s suspension. Many reporters and players called for a season-long ban, some suggesting that the suspension should go into the 2020 season as well. 

Prior to Garrett’s penalty, the longest suspension for a single on-field action was five games, awarded to Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth in 2006 for ripping Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode’s helmet off and stomping on his face (Trotter & Pryor, 2019). 

Garrett’s indefinite suspension makes a statement to the rest of the NFL, especially since Rudolph recently came off a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas in week 5 that knocked the quarterback unconscious (Seifert, 2019).

Garrett will have to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell before his reinstatement (Trotter & Pryor, 2019). By holding out one of the league’s stars for the rest of the season and potentially part of the next, the NFL is showing its decreased tolerance for fighting and the need to prevent incidents like this from occurring again.

The media calling for the lengthy suspension of Myles Garrett put pressure on the NFL to act. By issuing the longest suspension for a single on-field act in league history and later upholding the indefinite ban, the NFL demonstrates its power to discipline players for unsportsmanlike conduct, which it hopes to reduce in the future.

The Browns and Steelers met again on December 1 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

References

Browns, Steelers brawl at end of Cleveland’s 21-7 win. (2019, November 14). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/recap?gameId=401128044

JForsett. (2019, November 15). I wouldn’t be surprised if Garrett misses the rest of this season and half of next. It’s an ugly situation, Mason could have suffered a life altering injury. Football is an emotional sport but that was something different. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/jforsett/status/1195215451657318400?s=21

JuiceCheck44. (2019, November 14). Myles Garrett should not be allowed to play another snap this season [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/juicecheck44/status/1195202767494598656?s=21

LRiddickESPN. (2019, November 14). Suspend him for the rest of the season. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/lriddickespn/status/1195200614382346241?s=21

Myles Garrett’s indefinite ban upheld; Maurkice Pouncey now suspended 2 games. (2019, November 21). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28131395/myles-garrett-indefinite-ban-upheld-maurkice-pouncey-now-suspended-2-games

Pryor, B. (2019, November 23). NFL fines Steelers QB Mason Rudolph $50,000 for role in fight. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28146654/nfl-fines-steelers-qb-mason-rudolph-50000-role-fight

ReggieBush. (2019, November 14). In all my life of football that might have been the craziest thing I have seen on a football field! They about to suspend Myles Garrett for 30 years! People getting stomped out, that was a hood fight! Hate to see that in our game that’s not what pro football is about! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/reggiebush/status/1195202558643490816?s=21

Seifert, K. (2019, November 15). Myles Garrett suspension for Steelers-Browns fight: Why he deserves record punishment for helmet swing. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28083617/myles-garrett-suspension-steelers-browns-fight-why-deserves-record-punishment-helmet-swing

Trotter, J., & Pryor, B. (2019, November 15). Browns’ Myles Garrett suspended indefinitely; Steelers’ Maurkice Pouncey gets 3-game ban. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28087446/browns-myles-garrett-suspended-indefinitely-steelers-maurkice-pouncey-gets-3-game-ban