With the Ravens fighting for a playoff spot, Tyus Bowser is playing the best football of his career.
Bowser is doing special things that have forced people to notice. His latest highlight was a spectacular one-handed interception of Baker Mayfield on Monday Night Football, a play that displayed Bowser's athleticism and instincts.
It was an extraordinary moment in a memorable game, and Bowser's third interception in the last four games.
Not only did Bowser make an amazing catch by pulling the football into his body as he tumbled to the ground, but he bounced up quickly and nearly scored on the interception return. His play set up a 1-yard touchdown run by J.K. Dobbins, a key momentum swing during Baltimore's 47-42 victory.
The mild-mannered Bowser doesn't like to boast, but he's on a roll. Teammate Matthew Judon won't let Bowser get away with downplaying how well he's playing.
"Honestly, Tyus deserves a lot more credit, man," Judon said. "It's hard. You've seen people dropping balls in the cold, and he came up with it one-handed. That's his third pick in four weeks. So, he's been working hard behind the scenes. He catches and throws almost every day. You all have to respect this man in coverage, man. Respect him – he can rush, and he can cover. He does both, and he's an extremely hard worker."
Bowser is having a career season during a contract year, but you could sense the momentum building for him last season when he started putting things together. Coming off a quiet 2018 season when he recorded just 0.5 sacks, Bowser faced a make-or-break year in 2019 and he responded. Finishing with career highs in sacks (five) and tackles (23) last season, Bowser showed the ability that the Ravens expected when they made him a second-round pick out of Houston in 2017.
This year, Bowser has taken things to the next level. He already has a career-high 26 tackles to go along with two sacks and five passes defended, and his improvement in pass coverage has really opened eyes. Because the Ravens have three of the league's top cornerbacks in Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith, opponents often prefer to attack their linebackers through the air. Cleveland tried that repeatedly Monday night, looking to match up running back Kareem Hunt against a linebacker.
However, Mayfield made a mistake when he thought he could squeeze a sideline pass intended for Rashard Higgins past Bowser. He read the play perfectly and let his talent take over.
"[I was] just going through my reads, and I saw him turn toward the receiver," Bowser said. "Once I saw him throw the ball, I just put my timing out there to go and make a play – and that's what I did. Just whatever I have to do to help the team win."
The interception against Mayfield was the quarterback's first in six games, ending a streak of 186 throws without a pick. Mayfield is a hot quarterback, but on that play, Bowser was better.
"On that interception, I will tip my cap to them," Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski said. "That was a good defensive call. It was a great play dropping on a Fire Zone. We got fooled there. I got fooled there."
"They did a good job of dropping out, showing a look with three big guys on the edge on the left side. No. 54 Bowser made a great play," Mayfield said. "I just have to be able to see him dropping in underneath that stop route and take care of the ball. Plain and simple, just take care of the ball and give ourselves a better chance to win. They got points off of that so it sucks."
Bowser put in the work this offseason to become better in pass coverage, studying film and reporting to camp in great shape despite the pandemic. He felt the Ravens could have a special season in 2020 and he still believes that. Whatever it takes to help Baltimore reach the playoffs, Bowser is willing to do, and he looks capable of doing more than ever.
"I look at myself as just a football player, man," Bowser said. "Whatever I have to do, whether that is dropping in coverage or rushing, I'm just there to do it. That was one of my goals coming in, just to get an interception. I got three. I just try to do whatever I can to help the team, but just don't look at me as just a coverage guy. I can actually get to the quarterback. Overall, I'm just a football player."