Aaron Donald is a generative defensive talent

Sports

All credit to the defense.

All credit to the defense.
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Offensive highlights litter every catalog of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history, even fewer of those great plays include unwieldy defensive linemen. A six-foot loss isn’t as exciting as a 25-yard scoring throw or a receding attack that tramples an entire defense. But when the story of Super Bowl LVI is retold, Matt Stafford’s shoulder throw to Cooper Kupp should not overshadow Aaron Donald tearing the Bengals to shreds in the last two minutes during consecutive games.

With a title in danger slipping out of Los Angeles as the Bengals faced a major fourth-down conversion, there was an expectation in the air that a scintillating Donald push would come. In third and 1st place, Donald stopped the traffic jam Samaje Perine and swung a Hercules arm tackle to keep the 250-pounder from bowling an extra yard forward.

Donald demonstrated why his pass rush win rate was 20 percent higher than the NFL’s second-best defensive tackle in the ensuing game.

Donald’s devastating swim caused the jump on left guard Quinton Spain and dizzy the left guard. Spain was powerless against Donald who teleported into the backfield and collided with Burrow in just 2.2 seconds. Donald’s sudden moves forced the Bengalis quarterback to do a hot potato prayer that died in mid-air and fell incomplete.

Together, his last two downs of the season were a defensive streak that ended at the end of the season, demonstrating Donald’s abilities. There is a famous 4-minute recording in the 2003 Korean action thriller old boyin which the main character Oh Dae-Su single-handedly makes his way through a corridor filled with more than a dozen henchmen. The brutal scene sums up Donald’s endless pursuit this season.

The numbers contextualizing dominance in other positions are easily digestible, and Donald’s achievements deserve the same respect. On Sunday, ESPN Analytics found that Donald generated a team-high of seven presses and two sacks on 40 pass rushes, equating to a team high printing speed of 17.5 percent† Every time Burrow sneezed, the Rams were tighter in his grill than an N95.

It follows, given how Donald’s seventh straight All-Pro season has gone. His reign of terror was the chewing stuff quarterback nightmares are made of. He had every other NFC West quarterback search for exit routes, ended the postseason and wrote his team in the history books.

It was the second consecutive season that an interior fitter ended Burrow’s season. Donald proved that drawing Penei Sewell last May wouldn’t have been enough to seal their leaky, incontinent line of attack.

During the Rams title chase, the Donald threat matrix was at DEFCON 1. Kyler Murray, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Jimmy Garappollo felt his anger. He teased mobile quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray in kid meals. In Week 5, Russell Wilson hit Aaron Donald’s helmet with his finger. By the time he returned to the Seahawks lineup in November, the Seahawks had fallen out of the playoff battle.

Donald swallowed the Arizona escape artist 3.5 times, forcing him to slip out of the bag prematurely on numerous plays. Being messed up by Donald and co. contributed to Murray not wanting to return to the Cardinals at all.

Pushing Donald into the backfield and rolling Burrow up like a cigar was a déjà vu moment. Two weeks ago, Donald Garap covered . offPollo’s tenure by chasing him and forcing the frightened Niner’s quarterback to attempt a hasty kick pass, who was promptly busted.

In less than a decade, Donald has earned a place in the pantheon of pioneering Super Bowl-winning defensive game changers like Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White.

Donald’s earned AP Defensive Player of the Year three times in the past five seasons. In that period, he has created 140 more pressure from opposing QBs than the next closest lineman, Cameron Jordan.

He knocked down double teams at the same pace as his peers on the brink of solo blockers. On 64 percent of his pass rushes, Donald was double-teamed, collecting 12.5 sacks. TJ Watt, the reigning MVP, was just a double shift on a fifth of his rushes.

Before the Super Bowl, Harrison reported that Donald would consider retiring if the Rams won the Super Bowl. It remains to be seen whether Rodney Harrison’s sources are as reliable as… Adam Schefter’sbut when confronted with questions about his future, Donald avoided giving a direct answer.

“I’m just in the moment right now. I’m going to enjoy this with my teammates [and] my family,” Donald said. “I’m just going to be in the moment and enjoy this today – a few days, how about? It’s a blessing.”

He also considered everything it took to reach the peak of his career.

“I surpassed anything I ever thought I could do,” Donald said after the Rams’ Super Bowl win. “I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that I’d be sitting here with the success I’ve had in the league in a short space of time, being a world champion in this league in my eighth year.”

Aside from his individual numbers, his presence opens it up to his edge rushers and they thrive in more favorable blocking situations.

If this is really the end for Donald, there will be no reruns without him. Donald’s appeal and influence cannot be replicated.

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