With 5:36 remaining in the first quarter, the Cleveland Browns have first and goal from the Bengals eight-yard line. Browns running back Willis McGahee takes the handoff and gains four yards. After the play concluded, Browns center Alex Mack continued shoving linebacker Vincent Rey, prompting officials to do their recognizable whistles when action is going down.
Vontaze Burfict noticed that one of his teammates was under assault and shoved Mack from behind. The consequence of his action led to a personal foul, his sixth of the year and a team-leading ninth overall penalty. But it wasn't an act of selfishness. Instead he was standing up for his teammate.
"One of our linebackers was getting pushed. I’ve got everybody’s back on defense, and if someone’s pushing me, they’ve got my back," Burfict said via Bengals.com. "I retaliated and pushed him, and I think that set the tone. Everyone was like, ‘OK, let’s go. They want to play like that?’
Despite the penalty giving Cleveland a fresh set of downs from Cincinnati's two-yard line, it didn't impact much. Burfict stopped McGahee for a one-yard gain. Carlos Dunlap offered a mad rush at Jason Campbell, forcing him to throw it out of bounds on second down and Michael Johnson ended Cleveland's drive by knocking down the pass at the line of scrimmage. Cleveland converted the field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
"We stopped them, they got three points, and I think that set the tempo. If they push my teammate, I’ve got their back."
Burfict finished the game with a team-leading 15 tackles, a forced fumble and recovery for a touchdown. This guy is a Pro Bowler.