For quite some time, there was a popular belief that Robert Mathis wasn't as good as his sack numbers indicated. Dwight Freeney was the true star on that Indianapolis Colts defensive line, they'd say, and Mathis was just living off of the lack of attention opposing pass protectors were affording him.
But now, with Freeney long gone and Mathis in his thirties, we might have to admit that we were wrong about that.
In fact, we might have to wonder if Mathis is/was just as good, if not better than Freeney.
The 32-year-old forced his league-leading seventh fumble of the year Sunday as the Colts beat the Chiefs. He's also been leading the league in sacks most of the season, although Robert Quinn jumped ahead of him there in Week 16. Either way, he's got 16.5 sacks, which is a career high. And only seven 3-4 outside linebackers have created more pressure this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
This is awesome: Mathis and Freeney now have exactly 108 sacks each, with Mathis having played five fewer games. Freeney has forced 43 fumbles; Mathis has forced 47.
He's proving now that he can do it with little support. No other Colt has five sacks this year. That's the difference.
It'll be hard to beat out Quinn for the defensive player of the year award, but Mathis definitely deserves consideration based on the difference he's made on that Indy defense. The Colts wouldn't be sitting pretty atop the AFC South if not for him.
Before the regular season wraps up for the Colts Sunday against Jacksonville, Mathis could move into the top 20 on the all time sacks list, ahead of his old pal Freeney. It's time we start recognizing how damn good of a pass rusher the man is.