Sometimes Aaron Donald's impact can't be measured by the box score so much as the extra attention he draws from opposing offenses. Such was the case this past Monday night when Donald regularly drew an extra blocker as the Rams' defensive front shut down the Buccaneers' run game and kept Tom Brady uncomfortable in a prime-time win.
In the end, Donald wasn't frustrated with registering zero tackles, much less a sack, in a winning effort. What bothered him was the lack of attention he feels he's getting from the officials.
"In my opinion, they hold every play," Donald told reporters Wednesday, per ESPN.com. "… There was some blatant holds that we didn't get the call for."
One no-call in particular, and it made the rounds on social media, came in the third quarter just prior to Brady getting hit in the end zone while releasing the ball. The play was ruled an incomplete pass, stirring up Tuck Rule vibes. Fumble or not, Donald appeared to be pulled back near his neck by Donovan Smith's arm.
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year admitted he's resorted to lobbying to officials "all the damn time."
"I feel like [Morgan] Fox got the ball out, so that should have been a sack anyway, and if it wasn't, it should have been a holding call and a safety because [Smith] held me in the end zone," Donald said. "So I thought was going to get the flag, I looked around, there was a lot of chaos, didn't, but it is what it is, so just got to keep playing ball."
Stats included or aside, Donald is still playing at an extremely high level. His nine sacks on the season led the league two weeks ago and still rank third after a pair of games in which he didn't even record a tackle. As The Athletic's Jourdan Rodrigue pointed out, the perennial All-Pro has been putting as much pressure on the QB as anyone.
Donald himself sounds content with his production, if not with how he's being officiated.
"At the end of the day I don't think I'm playing bad football," Donald said. "I feel like I'm disruptive, I'm still almost making plays, getting quarterbacks to get the ball off last minute, whatever the case may be. Guys around me making plays, too, so it's not nothing that I'm mad about."