By Jibriel Taha
The final week of the NFL season saw multiple former Cardinal earn opportunities to contribute, and they did just that, starting with New Orleans Saints running back Ty Montgomery ’15.
A wide receiver and return specialist in college who started seeing playing time at running back in 2016 with the Green Bay Packers, Montgomery was given the opportunity to start in the backfield after the entire Saints running back room was ruled out due to COVID-19 protocols stemming from Alvin Kamara’s positive test.
Montgomery delivered, rushing for 105 yards on 18 attempts, good for 5.8 yards per carry. He also picked up a two-yard reception as the Saints cruised to a 33-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers. The Saints finish the year as the No. 2 seed in the NFC and will face the Chicago Bears next Sunday afternoon in the Wild Card round.
Another former Cardinal who earned his opportunity to shine this week was Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ’19. He recorded two receptions for 40 yards and led the team in receiving yards. The Eagles fell 20-14 to the Washington Football Team on “Sunday Night Football” as Washington won the NFC East title and will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Saturday night.
Arcega-Whitside’s teammate and Eagles starting tight end Zach Ertz ’13 finished second on the team in receiving yards on Sunday night, registering three receptions for 16 yards in the loss. Elsewhere in the NFC East, former Cardinal tight ends faced off with Dalton Schultz ’18 of the Dallas Cowboys picking up 70 receiving yards on seven receptions and Kaden Smith ’20 of the New York Giants recording a 16-yard catch. The Giants came out on top to eliminate the Cowboys from the playoffs, but Washington’s victory later in the day ended the Giants’ season as well.
Rounding out the former Cardinal tight end corps was Austin Hooper ’17 of the Cleveland Browns, who recorded four receptions for 37 yards and a touchdown in a 24-22 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the victory, the Browns clinched their first playoff appearance since 2002, ending the league’s longest playoff drought. The two teams will meet again next Sunday night with more on the line at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
On the defensive side of the ball, New York Jets defensive end Henry Anderson ’15 recorded a season-high six tackles in a 28-14 loss to the New England Patriots. Also along the defensive line, Trent Murphy ’14 and Harrison Phillips ’18 of the Buffalo Bills registered two tackles each. Phillips also recovered a fumble as the Bills surged past the Miami Dolphins 56-26 and clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC. They will face linebacker Bobby Okereke ’18 and the Indianapolis Colts next Saturday morning in the Wild Card round. Okereke recorded three tackles in a 28-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars this past week.
An excellent season for Giants linebacker Blake Martinez ’16 came to a close on Sunday as the 2016 fourth-round pick picked up 11 tackles in a Giants win. He finished the year third in the NFL in total tackles and as the seventh highest-graded linebacker in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Another former Cardinal linebacker with a contribution was Brennan Scarlett ’15 of the Houston Texans, who picked up two tackles in a 41-38 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Texans finished the year at 4-12 while the Titans claimed the division title and the No. 4 seed in the AFC.
In the secondary, Denver Broncos Alijah Holder ’19 registered a season-high three tackles in a 32-31 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Broncos finished the season at 5-11 and in last place in the AFC West.
On special teams, Patriots punter Jake Bailey was called on to punt six times in his team’s win. The Pro Bowler’s punts averaged 45.3 yards and three landed inside the 20-yard line.