By Jibriel Taha
The penultimate week of the regular season featured multiple standout performances from former Cardinal with their teams’ playoff hopes on the line.
On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns found themselves with multiple wide receivers on the COVID-19 list, so tight end Austin Hooper ’17 was asked to pick up some of the slack — and he delivered. The 2016 third-round pick recorded seven receptions for 71 yards, both of which were season-highs. He also was targeted a career-high 15 times, but it wasn’t enough to secure a victory as the Browns fell 23-16 to the New York Jets. The Browns now sit at 10-5 and are in the thick of a tight AFC wild card race. A win against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17 will guarantee the Browns a playoff spot and end their drought of 17 seasons without a postseason appearance, the longest active streak in the league.
Other former Cardinal tight ends found their way onto the stat sheet in vital games this weekend as well. Dalton Schultz ’18 registered three receptions for 21 yards as his Dallas Cowboys kept their playoff hopes alive and eliminated the Philadelphia Eagles from playoff contention with a 37-17 victory. On the Eagles side, Zach Ertz ’13 picked up three receptions for 33 yards in the loss.
Linebacker Blake Martinez ’16 had an excellent day Sunday, recording 12 tackles for his New York Giants. However, the Giants fell 27-13 to the Baltimore Ravens, moving to 5-10 but still in contention for the NFC East title.
Other former Cardinal linebackers made an impact as well in Week 16. Bobby Okereke ’18 of the Indianapolis Colts recorded three tackles in a 28-24 loss to the Steelers. The Colts held a 24-7 lead midway through the third quarter but gave up 21 unanswered points to close out the game. The Colts are one of five 10-5 teams in the AFC vying for four playoff spots.
Additionally, Houston Texans linebacker Brennan Scarlett ’15 registered a tackle in a 37-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, moving the Texans to a disappointing 4-11 on the year. Linebacker James Vaughters ’15 of the Chicago Bears picked up two tackles in a 41-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Bears moved to 8-7 and one win away from a playoff berth.
Along the defensive line, defensive end Henry Anderson ’15 registered a tackle as the Jets picked up their second straight win after starting the season 0-13. Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips ’18 of the Buffalo Bills recorded a tackle in a 38-9 win over the New England Patriots on “Monday Night Football.”
In the secondary, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman ’10, missed yet another game, a 20-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, with a calf injury. The five-time Pro Bowler previously missed nine weeks this season with a calf injury.
On special teams, 2020 Pro Bowler Jake Bailey ’19 was called on to punt seven times in his Patriots’ loss to the Bills. Four punts landed inside the 20-yard line, and his seven punts averaged 51.7 yards.