By Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff)
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady and the Patriots offense just resoundingly answered their biggest challenge of the season thus far, scoring 30 points on the Jets’ previously top-ranked defense. They face another challenge on a short week, taking on the surging Miami Dolphins on the always-unpredictable Thursday Night Football.
The Dolphins boast a big, powerful, and nasty defensive front, led by three-time First Team All-Pro Ndamukong Suh. If the Patriots offensive line can’t hold up, Suh could wreak havoc in the backfield and lay some heavy hits on Brady.
But for the sake of the quarterback, that’s still not the most important thing in facing Suh. The real trouble with him comes after the whistle.
Suh is undoubtedly an elite pass rusher and run defender, a demanding assignment for any offensive line. But his immense talent may be the only reason he isn’t black-balled from the league, because he also has an extensive and ugly history of dirty plays, both before and after the whistle. He’s piled up $420,669 in lost earnings over his 5+ seasons in the NFL, including a two-game suspension.
Suh’s legacy continues to cement itself in 2015. Kicking players’ helmets off must be Suh’s new specialty, because he did it twice. First against the Redskins’ Alfred Morris…
…And again against Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick:
Intentional or not, Suh’s reputation precedes him and he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt for these plays. If he truly didn’t mean to kick their helmets, he didn’t exactly make an effort to avoid them.
In 2014, Suh had gone 32 games without incident and by rule reset his status as a “repeat offender”. But Suh quickly reverted to his usual nonsense when he infamously stepped on Aaron Rodgers during a game against the Packers, appearing to deliberately put all of his weight on Rodgers’ leg.
The Rodgers incident reignited discussions of Suh’s prior offenses, many of which are listed below. There’s the time he gave Matt Schaub a kick below the belt:
And this remarkably late hit on Chad Henne:
And this forearm punch to the back of Jay Cutler’s helmet:
Despite Suh’s objectionable history with quarterbacks, his most infamous transgression remains the stomping incident during a Thanksgiving game in 2011 when he drove his cleat into Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.
As bad as Suh’s behavior is, he has made it even worse with his unapologetic, borderline delusional attitude about it. He actually had the audacity to claim he didn’t stomp Dietrich-Smith:
“My intention was not to kick anybody, as I did not, removing myself…I was on top of a guy, being pulled down, and trying to get up off the ground – and why you see me pushing his helmet down, because I’m trying to remove myself from the situation, and as I’m getting up, I’m getting pushed, so I’m getting myself on balance.”
And his joke of an excuse for stepping on Rodgers was that he couldn’t feel his feet:
After the stomping incident, he apologized for “allowing the refs to have an opportunity to take me out of this game.” Not for, you know, stomping a mud hole in a guy’s arm while he was down.
Suh is not only a dirty player, he’s a coward. He doesn’t want to hold accountability for his actions. He wants all of the action with none of the consequences.
This season, Suh has found a way to escape trouble by making his helmet kicks look inadvertent. But given his history and reputation, it’s clear that his leg-swings, whether kicks or not, were intentional. It is his instinct, his natural reflex to be the NFL equivalent of Triple H sneaking a sledgehammer shot to the head. And he may have even convinced himself that he’s not doing anything wrong.
So when the Patriots and Dolphins take the field Thursday, the offensive line needs to protect Brady at all times. They need to know where Suh is every second of the game, even after plays are over. If Brady gets hit or knocked down, help him off the turf as soon as possible.
The last thing Patriots Nation wants to be talking about on Friday is whether a historically dirty player intentionally injured the franchise.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Read more from Matt here. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.