There is a cost to playing quarterback against the Ravens, and it can be measured not only by mistakes forced but also by hits delivered, plays disrupted and bodily harm inflicted. One of the hardest jobs in football might also be one of the most hazardous.
On Monday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was the latest to absorb the full force of the Ravens’ defense. He did not hold up well. The NFL’s most efficient quarterback went 18-for-32 for 255 yards and had a career-worst four interceptions before leaving midway through the fourth quarter with a stinger, an injury to a nerve in the neck. Purdy’s final play of the 33-19 loss lasted just over three seconds and ended without a pass thrown, his head whipped back to the Levi’s Stadium grass on a sack by outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.
Purdy was cleared to return and spoke to reporters afterward, but the damage had been done. Again. As the Ravens roll to a potential No. 1 seed in the AFC, they have left in their wake a staggering toll of quarterback injuries. “We talk with our pads,” Ravens defenders like to say, and often those messages are not warmly received.
“We play a brand of football that people don’t want to play,” inside linebacker Patrick Queen said Monday. “Everybody wants to be out here cute, playing basketball on grass and stuff, and we ain’t with all that. You can do all that stuff; we’re just going to hit you in the mouth every play, honestly. We couldn’t care less about all the pretty stuff you do, gimmick stuff. You still got to line up and play football. You still got to get touched, so that’s our mindset. That’s how we want to come out, and just hit people in the mouth.”
Or the shoulder. Or the wrist. Or wherever, really. The Ravens are largely indiscriminate in their treatment of opposing quarterbacks. They have taken down enough this season — they enter their Week 17 showdown against the Miami Dolphins with an NFL-high 54 sacks — to understand that few in the league are built to withstand repeated body blows.
Of the 14 different starting quarterbacks the Ravens have faced this season, six have required midgame or postgame treatment of some kind. The punishment the defense has doled out is as varied as it is extensive. In some cases, it’s transformed seasons.
- Week 2: The Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow aggravated a calf injury after escaping pressure from outside linebacker David Ojabo on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass in the 27-24 loss. Burrow remained the Bengals’ starter but struggled over the team’s next two games.
- Week 6: The Tennessee Titans’ Ryan Tannehill left in the fourth quarter of a 24-16 loss with an ankle injury. Tannehill, who hurt the ankle on a sack by Ravens defensive lineman Justin Madubuike early in the third quarter, was sidelined for over two months.
- Week 10: The Cleveland Browns’ Deshaun Watson suffered a displaced fracture to the glenoid in his right (throwing) shoulder as well as a minor ankle injury. Watson, who was sacked four times and hit eight times, played through the pain in a 33-31 comeback win, but the shoulder injury required season-ending surgery.
- Week 11: The Bengals’ Burrow tore a ligament in his right (throwing) wrist in a 34-20 loss to the Ravens. Burrow, who appeared to suffer the injury on a hit by Clowney in the second quarter, underwent season-ending surgery.
- Week 12: The Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert entered the medical tent after reportedly favoring his arm following a couple of hits, including a strip-sack by Clowney. Herbert ultimately did not miss any snaps in a 20-10 loss.
- Week 15: The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence entered the NFL’s concussion protocol after a 23-7 loss. Madubuike slammed him to the ground late in the third quarter, and while Lawrence didn’t miss any snaps, he completed just four of his final 14 passes after the hit.
- Week 16: Purdy left Monday’s game with a stinger.
“We just try to play the game the right way,” cornerback Brandon Stephens said Monday. “We never want to see anybody go out. But we just try to play physical, man, play in and play out. Make the other team be the one to tap out, not us.”
Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa is next up. Despite his history of concussions, Tagovailoa has started all 15 games for the Dolphins this season, avoiding trouble with one of the NFL’s quickest triggers and an improved understanding of how to fall when he is hit.
The Ravens will test him, both mentally and physically. The more quarterbacks struggle with one, the more they tend to struggle with the other.
“We’re just tenacious,” Madubuike said. “We’re hungry. We play angry. We play ferocious. We play aggressive. We play violent. That’s just us. I mean, from me to ‘Broddy’ [defensive lineman Broderick Washington] to [defensive lineman] Mike [Pierce] to [outside linebacker] Odafe [Oweh] to J.D. [outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney] to [outside linebacker Kyle] Van Noy, ‘Urb’ [defensive lineman Brent Urban], everybody’s just hungry. Everybody just loves to play with each other. And when you bring those hungry dogs together, it’s like a big pack, man. It’s hard to stop, as you can see.”