By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun –
The award that Terrell Suggs really wanted will be handed out tonight as the New York Giants and New England Patriots play for the Lombardi Trophy. The Ravens’ outside linebacker got a nice consolation prize Saturday night when he was named Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the 2011 season.
The announcement came at the first-annual NFL Honors awards show in Indianapolis, site of Super Bowl XLVI.
Suggs, 29, becomes the third Raven to win the AP Defensive Player of the Year award, following longtime teammates inside linebacker Ray Lewis (2000 and 2003) and safety Ed Reed (2004). Suggs received 21 of 50 votes, beating out a group of candidates that included Jared Allen (Minnesota Vikings), Justin Smith (San Francisco 49ers), DeMarcus Ware (Dallas Cowboys) and Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants).
“I want to thank the Ravens organization, my teammates, my position coach (Ted Monachino), all of our defensive coaches, and most importantly, the City of Baltimore,” Suggs said in a news release from the Ravens. “I’m very appreciative of Ravens Nation and their love and support throughout the past nine years.”
The award caps the finest season of Suggs’ nine-year career. He led the AFC with a career-high 14 sacks and set a franchise-record with seven forced fumbles. A standout on the NFL’s third-ranked defense, he also tied career highs with six passes defended and two interceptions.
Suggs was especially dominant in three games, with nine total sacks and five forced fumbles in victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers (Sept. 11), San Francisco 49ers (Nov. 24) and Indianapolis Colts (Dec. 11).
If there was a blemish on Suggs’ season, it was that he was relatively quiet down the stretch, being held without a sack in four of the Ravens’ final five games, including both playoff games. However, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said at Wednesday’s “State of the Ravens” address that that was a result of the increased attention given to the linebacker by the opposition as the season went on.
“We saw people starting to do some things to scheme (against) Suggs — using tight ends or chipping him as they go out,” Newsome said. “But what we like about both (Suggs and Haloti Ngata) is that they show up in both the run and pass. The stats show up as far as sacks, but the way both of those guys impact the way we play against the run, it’s unbelievable.”
There was plenty of competition for the award. Allen, the Vikings’ relentless defensive end, finished with 22 sacks, just a half-sack shy of tying former Giant Michael Strahan’s NFL record. However, the Vikings’ 3-13 record almost certainly affected his candidacy.
Smith had 71/2 sacks and three forced fumbles and led a physical 49ers defense that sparked San Francisco’s rebirth. Ware had 191/2 sacks, and Pierre-Paul finished with 161/2.
Suggs, selected by the Ravens in the first round of the 2003 draft, has an impressive resume. He is the Ravens’ all-time leader in sacks (82.5), sack yardage (610) and forced fumbles (29). He is second in Ravens history in fumble recoveries (11).