Week in and week out in the National Football League, you can count on three main Stanford alumni to make headlines across the league with consistent, superstar performances. Every football fan in the world would recognize Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. But there are 28 total Stanford players in the NFL, including these three, each suiting up every Sunday as a full fledged member of a 53-man roster. Here are the players that stood out in week four of NFL competition.
With McCaffrey and the Panthers on bye, it was up to the other two Stanford studs to turn in major performances, and they delivered in a big way. Zach Ertz has been unstoppable this season and is quietly on pace to have one of the best tight end seasons in history. On Sunday, he caught 10 of his 14 targets for 112 total yards. He didn’t find the end zone, but he was the leading receiving threat for the Eagles offense, despite the overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans. Ertz is third in the NFL in targets out of all pass catchers (46) and has the fourth-most catches in the league (31), tied with Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants and Juju Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If Ertz continues this pace, he’ll finish the year with 124 total catches, making him the first Eagles player in history to catch 100 balls in a season and the fourth tight end in history to do so. He’s on a streak of breaking records as his 10-catch game on Sunday was the seventh of his career, putting him third all-time for 10 catch games by a tight end, behind legends Tony Winslow Sr. and Jason Witten. If there’s a record in the book left to break, Ertz is hot on it’s trail. His consistency makes him a favored target for quarterback Carson Wentz.
Andrew Luck also had a record setting day against the Houston Texans as he threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions for the first time in his career. He became the 11th quarterback in NFL history to achieve this feat, throwing the ball 62 times and completing 40 passes for a 64.5 percent completion percentage. Considering his prestige and reputation as a quarterback, this stat may be surprising, but amassing 464 yards in a single game is absolutely astounding, especially while keeping the ball out of the opponents hands. Luck also became the second fastest quarterback to reach 20,000 passing yards, doing it in just 74 total games. Despite losing the game in a tragic, crunch time error, the Colts offense was firing on all cylinders.
A couple of Stanford players made their return from injury this week, slotting themselves back into their rosters. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks returned from an MCL strain, adding much-needed relief to the Seahawks pass catchers. Baldwin hooked up with quarterback Russell Wilson for five catches and 41 yards — not the greatest showing, but a good step back from injury. The Seahawks took down the Arizona Cardinals 20-17.
New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Andrus Peat also came back into the active roster, reclaiming his place in the Saints offensive line. His run blocking allowed the Saints’ star running back, Alvin Kamara, to run all over the New York Giants, amassing 134 yards and three touchdowns, with an absolutely bonkers 7.05 yards per carry. With Peat back in the lineup full-time for the first time this season, Kamara’s YPC went up three full yards from a previous average of 4.0.
While Stanford is less star-studded on the defensive side of the ball, a few defensive players broke out in strong performances this week as well. New York Jets defensive end Henry Anderson blew up the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line with an all-star performance, accumulating three tackles and one sack. He also got the better of quarterback Blake Bortles, reading his progressions and batting down three passes at the line of scrimmage. The Jets lost 17-32, but Anderson remains an incredibly valuable free agent acquisition for the team.
Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez had another standout performance, providing consistency and stability to the Packers defense. Martinez had six tackles and three assists, making his tackle total 20 and his combined total 33. Martinez had aspirations to lead the league in tackles, and this total is the 10th best in the NFL. Martinez also registered his first sack of the season in the team’s blowout victory of the Buffalo Bills. The Green Bay defense did not allow the Bills to score as they won 22-0.
Finally, rookie safety Justin Reid continues to produce for an already stacked defense, contributing heavily in the Houston Texans victory over the Colts, mentioned earlier. Reid had four total tackles and one assist, in addition to breaking up a pass thrown by fellow Cardinal alumni Andrew Luck. Additionally, Reid’s brother, Eric (who also plays safety), was signed by the Carolina Panthers after being sidelined for the beginning of the season due to a saturated, low-paying safety market and his association with Colin Kaepernick and his protests.
With McCaffrey coming back off his bye and so many players coming off of powerful performances, it’s just a question of who will produce the next all-star Stanford performance, rather than a question of when it will happen.
Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’ stanford.edu.