In the NFL this past weekend, one former UNC QB won by doing less. One defensive player watched helplessly as his offense was shut out, and in another game another defensive player was part of a unit that shut out the opposing offense. Elsewhere, a suspension means a potential opportunity for a former UNC running back, and a former UNC wide receiver recorded his first NFL reception. And then things ended in style. Let’s take a look at how former Heels impacted each game.
Thursday Night Football: Oakland Raiders 31, Kansas City Chiefs 30
No Tar Heels were on the active roster for either team in this game, but Marshawn Lynch’s one-game suspension for making physical contact with a referee and subsequently being ejected for it means a potential opportunity for Elijah Hood, currently on the Raiders’ practice squad. With no Lynch, the Raiders will only have two RBs on the active roster for their next game, which means Hood could potentially get called up.
Sunday: Minnesota Vikings 24, Baltimore Ravens 16
Although his team lost, Ravens guard and former UNC man James Hurst has played every single one of the Ravens’ 465 offensive snaps this season. Against the Vikings, he earned a 79.3 rating per Pro Football Focus, which is far and away his highest grade of the season. On 44 passing plays against the Vikings stout defense, Hurst did not allow a single quarterback pressure of any kind, although his fellow lineman allowed five sacks.
Sunday: Miami Dolphins 31, New York Jets 28
Although the Jets’ defense melted down against the legendary Matt Moore, former UNC linebacker Bruce Carter is not to blame. Carter has primarily been a special teams player for the Jets all season, thus far recording only one defensive snap to 101 special teams snaps. Twenty four of those snaps came against the Dolphins, Carter’s highest total so far this year, and he even managed to record a tackle.
Sunday: New Orleans Saints 26, Green Bay Packers 17
No Heels played in this game, but hey, Mike McCarthy, if you’re reading this, T.J. Yates is a free agent QB with a proven track record of leading teams to playoff berths and wins after starting QBs have gone down to injury. Food for thought.
Sunday: Jacksonville Jaguars 27, Indianapolis Colts 0
Likewise, no Heels here either, although it certainly can’t be a coincidence that Bug Howard failed to make the Colts roster and now the Colts have no offense. Right? Right? Anyway, for the curious, he is currently on the Browns’ practice squad. Still eligible to be signed, Indy!
Sunday: Tennessee Titans 12, Cleveland Browns 9 (OT)
It was a defensive showdown in Cleveland, as these two teams traded seven field goals as their only means of scoring. Two Heels were defensive starters for the winning side: safety Da’Norris Searcy and nose tackle Sylvester Williams. Both were outshadowed by their fellow defenders, however: Williams didn’t get on the stat sheet at all (which doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t have an impact), while Searcy recorded two tackles as his safety counterpart Kevin Byard picked off three passes.
Sunday: Chicago Bears 17, Carolina Panthers 3
Sorry, Mitchell Trubisky, but this loss hurt me deeply. Trubisky has won back to back games as a bona fide game manager, and neither performance was so emblematic as his performance against the Panthers. Minus a 70-yard reception from NC A&T alum Tarik Cohen, Trubisky was a mere 3 for 6 for 37 yards. But a win’s a win, and Trubisky has already surpassed Mike Glennon’s win total on the season. Connor Barth added a chip shot field goal and two extra points, although a 52-yard attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Sunday: Buffalo Bills 30, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27
Brandon Tate’s team won this one, although admittedly he didn’t contribute much outside of a pair of kickoff returns for 49 yards total.
Sunday: Los Angeles Rams 33, Arizona Cardinals 0
Kareem Martin of the Cardinals tied for the lead on his team in special teams snaps, saw some action with the defensive unit, and notched a tackle. But there wasn’t much he could do as the Rams absolutely decimated his team’s offense.
Sunday: Dallas Cowboys 40, San Francisco 49ers 10
Across the Cowboys’ last three games, former top-10 pick Jonathan Cooper seems to finally have fully revitalized his career, as he has played 100% of the offensive snaps for the Cowboys in each of those three games. Against the Niners, he didn’t allow a single pressure and was graded at 78.1, again courtesy of Pro Football Focus. Another Tar Heel has notched a significant milestone with the ‘Boys as well: Ryan Switzer recorded his first career reception. It was only for two yards, but the longest journeys start with a single step...or two.
Sunday: Pittsburgh Steelers 29, Cincinnati Bengals 14
The pair of former Heels on Cincinnati’s roster had a day to forget this past Sunday. Giovani Bernard had four touches for a mere seven yards, and although center Russell Bodine played all of his team’s offensive snaps (he hasn’t missed a snap all season), he will be disappointed that his offensive line let Andy Dalton get sacked four times. Plus, the offense failed to break 200 yards, which is not a recipe for success against Pittsburgh.
Sunday: Seattle Seahawks 24, New York Giants 7
Although Nazair Jones recorded a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage against the Giants in what was a dominant performance defensively by the Seahawks, he still remains a purely situational and rotational player in the Seattle defense, although he’s surely learning from some of the best.
Sunday: Los Angeles Chargers 21, Denver Broncos 0
Safety Tre Boston has acclimated very well in his first season in Los Angeles, with one missed defensive snap against the Broncos being his only missed defensive snap of the entire season so far. The Panthers, currently struggling in terms of depth at safety, are surely regretting his release during the offseason. Boston helped pitch a shutout but didn’t stuff the stat sheet, recording one tackle and two assists.
Sunday Night Football: New England Patriots 23, Atlanta Falcons 7
This Super Bowl rematch featured no Tar Heels, just a lot of fog caused by thousands of footballs being deflated at once.
Monday Night Football: Philadelphia Eagles 34, Washington Redskins 24
The week ended with an absolute bang for former Heels. On the defensive side, Zach Brown of the Redskins was absolutely all over the place, leading his team with 13 total tackles, 10 solo tackles, four tackles for loss, and one and a half sacks. But his defensive effort wasn’t enough, as the Eagles won. One of Carson Wentz’s four touchdowns was a 64-yard BOMB to Mack Hollins. It was his only reception, but more importantly it was his first touchdown of his career. What an end to the week!