Head Coach Bruce Arians had been stressing for weeks the impact Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea have had up front and that Suh, especially, was 'so close to getting home' on a sack as of late. Well, it finally happened in Sunday's game overseas in London, England as Suh and Vea split a sack on Panthers' quarterback Kyle Allen.
The initial success of guys like outside linebacker Shaq Barrett can be attributed in part to the efforts of the two aforementioned interior linemen, who eat up blockers like the cookie monster raiding the cookie jar. Week Six seemed to be when teams woke up to Barrett, electing to pay more attention to him, leaving the guys inside with more one-on-one situations. It paid off for Suh, who helped shut down running back Christian McCaffrey and the rest of the Panthers' run game in addition to recording his first sack of the season. Let's take a look at a few plays where Suh may have gone a little underappreciated.
1st & 10 @ TB 29 (14:50)
Carolina in 11 personnel
Suh is aligned in the 3-tech initially, but then Olsen motions pre-snap to the left side of the offensive formation, which shifts the Bucs' front over and Suh to the 2i while Vita Vea becomes the new three-tech to the closed side. You'll notice inside linebacker Lavonte David slides over the open B-gap and rookie Devin White looks to be spying running back Christian McCaffrey.
The right guard jumps to the second level to take David as an attempt to create a lane for McCaffrey, who takes a handoff to the right side. It leaves one-on-one matchups to the right side. The right tackle therefore takes outside linebacker Carl Nassib, originally aligned in a wide-9. Nassib does a good job of overpowering him, causing McCaffrey to have to cut inside. Meanwhile, Suh has handled the center and is able to disengage in time to stop McCaffrey at the line. White is right behind him, easily shaking the left guard and bouncing to the hole McCaffrey is attempting to squeeze through. An extra effort gets McCaffrey a yard, but Suh stays on his legs to bring him down before he can get more than that.
1st & 10 @ CAR 29 (1:07)
Carolina in 11 personnel
The Bucs bring just a four-man rush but outside linebacker Shaq Barrett gets triple-teamed on the outside, leaving both Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh one-on-one on the interior. From the 2i alignment, Vea gets initial pressure by driving the center back as Suh does the same with the right guard from the 4i alignment just inside the shoulder of the right tackle. Outside linebacker Carl Nassib is aligned in the 9, outside Carolina tight end Greg Olsen, who releases into a route rather than staying in to block, leaving the right tackle to take Nassib on the other side of Suh.
Vea is able to back his man up enough to get a hand on quarterback Kyle Allen first, which gets him to turn right into the path of Suh. Having overpowered the right guard yet again, Suh is freed up to then bring down Allen, dropping him for a loss of 12. Much the way Suh had been opening up opportunity for Barrett on the outside, it seemed as though the Panthers were now planning for Barrett more, in turn, opening up opportunities for the interior.
1st & 10 @ CAR 25 (5:27)
Carolina in 12 personnel
This tackle of McCaffrey was credited to Vea but Suh had a big role in the play and was right there with Vea on the tackle, too. Carolina has two tight ends on the field, initially aligned on the left side of the formation before Chris Manhertz motions to the opposite side, splitting the two. It causes both inside linebackers to slide over a gap while Will Gholston slides over a half man from the 5-tech to the 4. Both tight ends stay in to block, leaving Greg Olsen on Nassib while the left tackle bounces over to block the right side as McCaffrey makes an attempt up the middle.
Suh has taken both the right guard and tackle, leaving Vea one-on-one with the center. Suh pulls another spin move on both blockers as Vea disengages and slides across to get his hands on McCaffrey just as Suh is getting there from the other side. That is not a sandwich you want to be in the middle of, believe you me and it results in just a yard gained on first down.