SteelerNation.com

Hidden Play: Week 13 vs Cleveland: When a Pressure Turns the Tide

By G.Stryker
SteelerNation.com

Games are full of special moments. Most are easy to see and are part of the highlight reel each week. Some moments happen just out of the limelight of the big play, but without their efforts, those big plays don’t happen. These hidden plays can be a block, a pressure, a tip, or football IQ creating the impact that is the difference between success and failure.

Sacks are game changing plays. QB pressures are also an important statistic, but they are also mostly forgotten plays. Bud Dupree was very disruptive this past Sunday in creating pressures on Baker Mayfield, and towards the end of the 2nd quarter, he had a pressure that changed the game. Most of us watching the game saw the replays of Bud getting pressure on Baker as he released the football and his hand follows through and hits Bud hard in the facemask, injuring his thumb. Though that play didn’t knock Baker out of the game, it changed the course of the game.

Baker comes out in the second half, and the announcers initially state he is not starting. He’s wearing a glove and high-fiving his teammates with his opposite hand. Who high fives left handed when you’re a righty? Baker does. Why? Because his thumb is jacked up. I watched him very closely on the sideline and I noticed something. His hand was taped under the glove. Why is this important? Because his thumb was taped and covered with a glove, he could not flex his thumb and also had a limited rotational motion on the thumb joint. What does that mean? It means if his hand gets hit while holding the football, the ball is coming loose.

Move forward to the Cleveland Browns first drive of the second half, they are mounting a 10 play drive, and Bud Dupree shows up again. On 2nd and 10 from the Pittsburgh 38, he bests former Steeler Chris Hubbard, as he holds him on a pass attempt, and is penalized for 10 yards (another hidden play for Bud). The next play, Baker goes back to pass and Bud again gets by Hubbard for the sack/fumble. By bringing his hand down hard on Baker’s taped/gloved hand, the ball easily pops out. Baker lacked the thumb strength to keep that ball in his hands and Cameron Heyward recovers the fumble. The Steelers take the lead on the ensuing field goal and never look back on the way to a big divisional win.

This is an instance where a pressure set up the defense for a big play later in the game. This is why quarterback pressures are an important and sometimes game changing stat.

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