It was fitting that the Ravens' 35-7 victory today over their archrival ended with Terrell Suggs' arms wrapped around Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback on the M&T Bank Stadium turf.
The Ravens' dominant defensive effort against Roethlisberger, their long-time tormentor, included a record-breaking afternoon for Suggs, who had three sacks, two forced fumbles and five total tackles. The three sacks give the outside linebacker 71 ½ for his career, surpassing Peter Boulware (70) and setting a new Ravens' record.
"That wasn't a goal of mine to get the sack record, but then, before you go into it, you are only 1½ away," said Suggs who called Boulware a mentor to him. "I was like, 'I'm close. I might as well get it. I might as well do it in this game against my rival.' I had all my family in the stands, and it was Opening Day versus the Pittsburgh Steelers so it was almost fate."
There were plenty of defensive standouts for the Ravens, who forced a franchise-record seven turnovers, and never stopped attacking the Steelers, even when the outcome was no longer in doubt. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was his dominant self, forcing a fumble and recovering two. Safety Ed Reed had the 12th multi-interception game of his career, and Ray Lewis also registered an interception and a forced fumble.
But as usual in this matchup, the most disruptive player in a Ravens uniform was Suggs, who now has 13 ½ sacks against the Steelers, the most any active NFL player has compiled against Pittsburgh. When you include the playoffs, Suggs has sacked Roethlisberger 15 ½ times, more than any other NFL defender. He also has six combined sacks on him in the last two meetings between the teams.
"I said it all along: he's one of the best I've played against, and he really got after us today," Roethlisberger said.
"God can have (Roethlisberger's) soul but his ass belongs to me," Suggs told Comcast SportsNet on the field after the game. "He knows there are only a few players who can bring him down and I'm one of them."
Relishing new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano's aggressive approach, Suggs came early and often. The four-time Pro Bowler burst through the middle virtually untouched to slam Roethlisberger and force a fumble late in the first quarter. Four plays later, Ray Rice plunged in from the 1-yard-line to give the Ravens a 14-0 lead.
Suggs got another strip and a sack in the fourth quarter that led to a Billy Cundiff field goal and he completed his tour-de-force afternoon with the sack on the game's final play.
"I didn't want them to score at the end of the game; 35-7 is a lot better than 35-14," Suggs said. "These two defenses are the best defenses in the NFL. We just had to get the edge on them in Game 1."
Suggs was quick to deflect the credit, naming virtually every Ravens' defensive player to take a snap, and praising Pagano's plan, which constantly kept Roethlisberger under siege.
On one of the few snaps where Roethlisberger had time, he found Emmanuel Sanders in the back of the end zone in the second quarter to cut the Ravens' lead to 14-7. But rarely did the Steelers' burly quarterback have any room the rest of the way.
"He never flinches," Suggs said of Pagano. "These guys are professional athletes, too. They're going to make some plays. The one time we did go coverage, they scored a touchdown. [Pagano] was like, 'Forget it. We're going to stay with the pressure all game.'"
Lewis said the Ravens' defensive dominance went well beyond schemes. It was just a matter of winning the individual matchups, something that hasn't happened enough for the Ravens against Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
"I think the No.1 thing for us is that if you're watching each guy individually, who made the plays, they beat their man one-on-one," Lewis said. "There is no secret to that. When you line up and you play football, there is somebody to block you, and somebody for you to get around. I think a lot of players made a lot of plays today."
Few if anybody made more of them than Suggs. When his sack record was recognized on the stadium scoreboard, Suggs acknowledged the crowd, only after Rice's prodding. It was the only subtle thing that Suggs — or the Ravens did — all afternoon
"You watch him, how raw of a talent that he was when he first came in. You knew how special he was going to be," Lewis said. "Just with the relationship that me and him have, I just started challenging him personally to mature in certain areas, not just to be a sack master but to be a complete football player. Now, you see everything about him involved with that."
Baltimore Sun staff writer Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times