Ndamukong Suh – 2014
Statistics: 16 games played, 8.5 sacks, 53 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss
Retrospective: Honestly, you can take your pick. Ndamukong Suh was such a force during his time in Detroit that practically any of his five seasons in a Lions uniform could fit on this list. 2014, his last year as a Lion, stands out for a number of reasons though.
Suh’s reputation as a punishing interior force was long since established by the beginning of 2014. He was not just one of the best pass-rushing tackles around, but he had become an impenetrable wall against opposing rushing attacks, routinely devouring double teams and stopping ball carriers in their tracks before they could get too far upfield.
Never was that more evident that in 2014, when, led by Suh, the Lions absolutely dominated opposing rushing attacks. The Lions gave up a paltry 69.3 yards on the ground per game, easily the best in the league. The next closest team gave up over ten yards more per contest. Suh’s 21 tackles for loss, third-best for 2014, were a major reason why.
The Lions also led the way surrendering just 3.2 yards per tote and were the only team not to give up a run of over 35 yards. Domination. It helped Suh earn his second straight All-Pro selection and third overall.
The Lions veered more toward the middle of the pack when it came to passing defense, but Suh’s team-leading 8.5 sacks helped lead a balanced pass rush. He was unstoppable in divisional road wins against the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, totaling 4.0 sacks, 6 quarterback hits and five tackles for loss in those games.
Ironically, despite Suh’s stellar year and the Lions 11-win playoff berth, he almost did not appear in their postseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys. In the season finale against the Green Bay Packers, Suh stepped on the ankle of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after knocking him down. The infraction, and perhaps consideration of his past “dirty” plays on the field yielded a suspension for the playoff game.
Luckily, the Lions won an appeal and Suh played against the Cowboys, harassing quarterback Tony Romo all game and sacking him twice. After the loss, his emotional post-game press conference became a lingering image in the minds of many Lions’ fans. Never was he more forceful for the Lions than in 2014, and it’s a level of play that he has rarely reached again since leaving Detroit.