As the regular season comes to an end, a majority of the Stanford players in the National Football League will be taking a short break before starting their workouts to prepare for the upcoming 2016 season. Still, six of the 12 teams in the playoffs will feature a combined total of nine Cardinal alumni.
Week 17 featured strong defensive performances as well as impressive plays from tight ends Zach Ertz ’13 of the Philadelphia Eagles and Coby Fleener ’12 of the Indianapolis Colts.
Ertz managed a career-high 152 yards on 9 receptions, leading the team in its 35-30 victory over the New York Giants. While Philadelphia’s season is over, Ertz’s role has expanded throughout the year and he looks to continue his improvement next season.
Fleener led the Colts in receiving with 7 catches for 88 yards, pulling in a touchdown to give Indianapolis the lead in the first quarter. The stars did not align to give the Colts a playoff berth, so Stanford fans will have to wait until next season to see the return of quarterback Andrew Luck ’12 and defensive tackle Henry Anderson ’12. Wide receiver Griff Whalen ’12 was waived after being placed on injured reserve and is now a free agent.
Safety Michael Thomas ’12 led Miami in tackles as the team played spoiler to the Patriots, holding New England to 10 points. Thomas recorded 6 combined tackles, including two key third-down stops, and also registered a pass defended.
After starting the season on the practice squad, Eagles safety Ed Reynolds has been putting up strong numbers for Philadelphia, notching 5 solo tackles for the second straight week. His 7 combined tackles reflect a career high for the first-year player.
In a 36-6 rout of the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman ’10 gave a lockdown performance. While he registered just 3 solo tackles and 2 passes defended, Sherman was rarely targeted, which has become something of a trend this season. He also batted down a long pass from Carson Palmer to end the Cardinals’ first drive.
On the other side of the ball, Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin ’10 caught 5 passes for 46 yards. Despite his team’s strong performance, this was a limited performance from Baldwin, and his five-week streak of games with a touchdown came to an end.
Buffalo rookie linebacker A.J. Tarpley ’15 followed up his breakout game last week with another solid start, intercepting a last-ditch pass attempt by Ryan Fitzpatrick, effectively ending the game and securing a win for the Bills. Tarpley, who last week recorded his first-career interception against the Cowboys, also notched 2 tackles and a pass defended.
As it stands, Stanford will be represented in the playoffs by players on the New England Patriots (2), Arizona Cardinals (2), Seattle Seahawks (2), Pittsburgh Steelers (1), Cincinnati Bengals (1) and Washington Redskins (1).
Contact Olivia Hummer at ohummer ‘at’ stanford.edu.