With five games to go in the regular season, there is some separation in the race for the edge and interior pass rushers of the year.
The Texans' J.J. Watt continues to distance himself from the rest of the interior rushers, although Gerald McCoy has been coming on strong since he was given more freedom in the Buccaneers’ scheme.
On the edge, it appears it will come down to two players: Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil and St. Louis’ Robert Quinn. Dumervil better look out because Quinn is on a tear. Since posting 1.25 Pressure Points (1.5 sack assists, one quarterback hit) against the Titans in Week 9, Quinn has totaled 14.25 points the past two games.
One week after Bengals end Carlos Dunlap set the season record with 7.5 Pressure Points against the Browns, Quinn took it to another level with 9.5 against the Bears. And he did it with just one sack, a strip/touchdown that doesn’t even give him extra points in our calculations. Quinn added a sack assist, a drawn hold, a season-record 11 hurries and three quarterback hits (we count pressures on penalty plays because while the play might not count, the effect on the quarterback does).
“He was fast coming off the edge, real good with this hands, just a relentless player," Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod told the Chicago Tribune after the game. "Honestly, I felt like we were doing a decent job against him, for the most part, until catastrophe at the end."
That was Quinn’s final blow for the game, which you’ll see below. Quinn did a remarkable job of turning the corner despite Bushrod being in good position.
But Quinn’s performance was just more than that. Take this second-quarter play. Quinn showed off his amazing speed on the turf by hitting Bears QB Josh McCown in 3.34 seconds despite (1) playing read-and-react at the snap and taking a step back; (2) dealing with the (attempted) blocks from Bushrod, RB Michael Bush and LG Matt Slauson.
Then there was the following play in the fourth quarter, where Bushrod had to tackle Quinn to keep him from taking down McCown.
Just an awesome performance from a player in Quinn who is making a legitimate run at Defensive Player of the Year.
“A guy like that, you're not going to contain him," Bushrod said. "You've just got to do your best to keep him away. He was good at turning the edge, and Josh did a good job of stepping up, which I knew he would do. You go all game and play OK, and then you give up something that hurts your team, I don't feel good about it at all."
Unsung edge rusher of Week 12
Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders
He didn’t have a sack against the Titans, but Houston’s drawn hold, eight hurries and one hit were good enough for 5.25 Pressure Points, which tied for fourth this week with Brian Robison of the Vikings. It was the best performance for Houston since the first two weeks of the season, when he put up 5.8 and 5.0 (earned him unsung honors in Week 2).
Interior rusher (and unsung) of Week 12
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Joined Cowboys tackle Jason Hatcher (Weeks 6 and 7) and Bengals end Carlos Dunlap (Weeks 10 and 11) in earning back-to-back honors. It wasn’t quite the 7.25 Points he had in setting the interior season record last week, but McCoy still had 4.5 points despite not having a sack, drawn hold or hit. McCoy did it all with nine quarterback hurries. Because he generated pressure without posting an official sack, McCoy also joined Ndamukong Suh (Week 1) and Dunlap (Week 11) in being both the top and unsung rusher at his position for the week.
It’s doubtful McCoy can catch Watt for the season interior rushing title, but it’s not out of the question. Since being freed up in Tampa’s scheme the past two weeks (11.75 Pressure Points), McCoy has equaled his production in the previous five games combined (11.75 Points).