Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has not recorded a sack or even a tackle over the past two games, something the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year says he has "never, ever" done in his life, "until this year."
However, Donald -- who ranks third in the NFL with nine sacks and 35 pressures -- remains confident about his level of play.
"At the end of the day I don't think I'm playing bad football," Donald said Wednesday. "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."
But that's not to say that Donald isn't frustrated about one aspect of his game.
When asked if officials had been missing holding calls, Donald didn't hold back.
"In my opinion, they hold every play," Donald said, adding that in a 27-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, "there was some blatant holds that we didn't get the call for."
Donald pointed to a play late in the third quarter, when Bucs quarterback Tom Brady was facing third-and-15 from his 8-yard line. When hit by Rams defensive end Morgan Fox in the end zone, Brady appeared to fumble and the Rams recovered, but the play was quickly blown dead and ruled an incomplete pass.
"I feel like 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 [Buccaneers left tackle Donovan 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."
The Rams' defense ranks second in efficiency and points allowed per game (19.2), and the unit ranks third in the NFL with 32 sacks.
Holding calls across the NFL are at a 20-season low, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. There have been 357 offensive holding penalties through 11 weeks, down from the 660 offensive holding penalties at the same point last season.
Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley acknowledged that holding penalties were down across the league, but said the Rams (7-3) would examine the lack of calls in favor of Donald, who has been double-teamed on a league-high 223 of his pass rushes, which is 35 more than the next player, Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks, who has faced 188 double-teams.
"That's just saying that people are blocking him straight up, which we know is not the case, so holding calls just in general are down, but that's something that is a concern because it happened in the Seattle game as well," Staley said, referencing Los Angeles' Week 10 win. "It's like Shaquille O'Neal back when he was playing, this guy -- I think people take for granted how good he is and we need to make sure that people are seeing the game the way that they need to."
When asked if he lobbied with officials to bring attention to opponents holding him, Donald chuckled.
"All the damn time I talk to them," Donald said. "I say, 'You got to see that holding call,' they say they don't see it. I'm like, 'Man, the guy got me around my neck, grabbed, pulled my shirt, I just beat a guy with a clean rush.' But it's all right, hopefully I'm gonna get one sooner or later that's gonna help us big time, so I just got to keep playing."