Most of us remember the unique circumstances two years ago that ultimately conspired to bring Elvis Dumervil from the Broncos to the Ravens. Insert your fax machine joke here. While the uniform colors may have changed, Dumervil's game has been the model of consistency. Since he came into the league eight years ago, Dumervil's deal has been rushing the passer, and the man should have a doctorate on the subject. At just 5'11, he's short compared to most outside pass rushers, but Dumervil has these freakishly long arms that help to compensate for his lack of height. He is able to get full extension and keep even the biggest of NFL tackles off of him.
After posting 9.5 sacks last season, his first with the Ravens, Dumervil evidently set a lofty goal for himself for this year. He discovered that the Ravens' record for sacks in a season was 15, set by former Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware back in 2001, and vowed to break it. In fairness Dumervil has already notched 17 sacks in a season, back in 2009, so it's not like he'd be breaking new ground. However, that was five years ago. It's generally hard for guys going into that eighth or ninth or 10th year in the league to duplicate the kind of success they had early on in their careers. With three and a half sacks on Sunday in a much needed win over the Dolphins, Dumervil officially broke the Ravens record with 16 on the season. Did I mention there are three weeks left?
Now Week 14 is around the time of the season you might as well call the "piss or get off the pot" time of the year. As I said last week, there was no need to call any of these games this past weekend a "must-win" because with four weeks left in the season there generally aren't any teams that have enough of a cushion to coast into the playoffs. The outcome of every game has the potential to change seedings or secure a playoff spot for some while eliminating any chance of a playoff trip for others. The Ravens came into the game tied for second place in the AFC North with the Steelers. The division leading Bengals were just half a game in front of both of them with a 8-3-1 record. The Dolphins, on the other hand, were in second place in the AFC East with a 7-5 record. If you don't win the division you can always make it in as a Wildcard, another reason it was a must-win game for both the Dolphins and Ravens.
Dumervil was determined to help his team stay in the hunt for the AFC North crown by bringing home a victory on Sunday, and he turned in four huge plays to make sure they got 'er done:
Dumervil was involved in four sacks this week. On the first one, the Dolphins faced second-and-15 from their own 37 yard line with 4:54 left in the second quarter and the score 10-0 with the Dolphins up. He came off the ball and did a beautiful window wiper to a rip move on right tackle Dallas Thomas. Not content to just sack Ryan Tannehill, Dumervil kept slapping at the ball until he forced him to fumble. Unfortunately for him, Dolphins safety Dion Thomas ended up recovering the ball. Still, the play ended up in a loss of 16 yards, which helped force Miami to punt after they couldn't convert on third-and-26.
His second sack came with the Dolphins facing a third-and-3 from the Ravens 46-yard line with 4:14 left in the third quarter and Baltimore sitting on a 14-10 lead. The Ravens couldn't afford to let Miami move the ball much further up the field or they might get in field goal range.
This time Dumverill came off low and hard, bull rushing Thomas back just past the level of the quarterback. At the same time on the opposite side, Terrell Suggs used a long arm to a rip an inside move on Dolphins left tackle Ja'Wuan James. Suggs and Dumervil simultaneously wrapped up Tannehill to get him on the ground for a loss of 6 yards. That sack brought a promising Dolphins drive to a very abrupt halt and forced them to punt on fourth down.
Not all of Dumervil's best rushes ended up as sacks. He also had a big pressure with the Dolphins facing second-and-goal from the Ravens 11-yard line with 13:36 left in the game. This time he elected to use a forklift move on Thomas where he got his hands on Thomas' forearms and pushed him up and back before he ripped off the block outside and just about got to Tannehill before he could make the throw. That pressure forced an errant pass to a wide open Mike Wallace that should have been a touchdown. Tannehill was sacked and the Dolphins were forced to settle for a field goal on the next play.
The Ravens finally got some breathing room with a 21-13 lead when Dumervil struck again. With Miami facing first-and-10 from their own 20-yard line with 8:09 left in the game, Dumervil decided to play a little possum. Because the Dolphins saw that Thomas just couldn't handle him one-on-one, they started sending other guys to chip Dumervil as he came off to pass rush. To counter that, he came off the ball that time slowly to avoid the chip by Thomas. Then after Thomas continued out into his route, Dumervil continued to approach Thomas slowly in contrast to the normal speed he uses on pass rushes. But as soon as he was within his ridiculously long reach of his he extended his arms, he swatted away Thomas' hands and took off like a scalded dog around the corner. Once he got past Thomas he tried to strip the ball from Tannehill again, but couldn't separate them that time. The sack still resulted in a loss of 4 yards, and Miami ended up going three-and-out after that.
With 3:06 left in the game and the score 28-13, Dumervil went ahead and got another sack to boot. The Dolphins were moving the ball with a no huddle and had just earned first-and-10 from their own 43-yard line. Dumervil went back to the well with his window wiper, ran right past Thomas and right over Tannehill for yet another sack. Tannehll lost 7 yards this time and had to call his team's third and final timeout. The rest of the drive didn't go very well. Eventually Miami turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert a fourth-and-4 from their own 49-yard line. There would be no exciting comeback that day.
The Bengals lost to the Steelers on Sunday, which means it's anybody's game in that division. The Ravens are in the mix too. I do not believe they would have won that game had it not been for Elvis Dumervil's heroics. So, for keeping his team's division crown and playoff hopes alive, I hereby award him the Hoss of the Week honors for Week 14.