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Tar Heels in the NFL are continuing to kill it

In one of the most offensively explosive weeks in recent memory, several Tar Heels showed out again

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears
GASP throwing without his fingers on the laces?!
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Sundays continue to be much better for Tar Heel football than Saturdays (and Thursdays) this season. This week, the comparison was particularly poignant, because while UNC was reeling from two quarterbacks absolutely floundering against Miami, Mitchell Trubisky was busy putting on one of the best statistical performances by a quarterback of all time. Trubisky wasn’t the only Tar Heel to shine in the pro football’s fourth week, though, so let’s take a look at what happened with Tar Heels in the NFL:

  • While I’m sure you’re well aware of this one, it’s my duty to recap it: Against an admittedly awful Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, Mitchell Trubisky threw an astonishing 6 touchdown passes (5 in the first half) and would have had a very good chance at tying or breaking the NFL record of 7 had the Bucs’ hitherto offensive prowess not suddenly dried up against Khalil Mack and the Bears’ formidable defense en route to a 48-10 Bears win. Trubisky went 19-26 for 354 yards, taking just one sack and not turning the ball over, meaning he had nearly as many touchdowns as incomplete passes. He finished with a 154.6 passer rating (158.3 is perfect) and a 98.9 QBR (out of 100). The Bears have been looking for this kind of game from Trubisky since they drafted him, and while he’s unlikely to put up this kind of statline on anything resembling a regular basis, it’s at least some proof that they didn’t make the mistake that many thought, and think, they did.

Unfortunately, the secondary that Trubisky torched included UNC’s highest 2018 draftee, M.J. Stewart. Stewart did record a PD against Trubisky, which is no small feat on just 7 incompletions, but also got burned for a touchdown against Allen Robinson (“burned” is strong, as there was no defending that pass, but he was the defender there) and had a rookie moment where he got deceived by a fake screen and allowed Josh Bellamy to sneak behind him for another. He has had a generally strong start to the season, though, and should rebound.

  • In the offense-fest that was the Cincinnati Bengals’ thrilling 38-37 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Giovani Bernard again did his part for Cincy with Joe Mixon out. Bernard took his 15 carries for a nice 69 yards and two scores, and caught all four of his targets for another 27 yards. He’s making a case for continued use after Mixon comes back, which he may do as soon as this week, because Bernard has been nothing short of excellent in Mixon’s absence.
  • Speaking of former Tar Heel offensive superstars, Eric Ebron is continuing to show the football world what I already knew: that it was Detroit, and not him, that was the problem. With Jack Doyle missing the Colts’ last two games due to injury, Ebron has stepped up as the Indianapolis Colts’ primary tight end and snagged 10 catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. His efficiency hasn’t been too great, as his yards-per-catch and catch rate are both pretty low, but that can be chalked up to position adjustment and gaining chemistry with Andrew Luck, who is himself trying to work back into football. Of that 10/73/1, 5 catches for 40 yards and a red-zone touchdown that required great communication between Luck and Ebron came in the Colts’ 37-34 overtime loss to the Houston Texans.
  • The offensive explosion came at the expense of Tar Heel defenders like Robert Quinn, whose previously undefeated Miami Dolphins limped out of Foxborough holding a 38-7 loss. Quinn played pretty well against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, hitting Brady 3 times along with 3 tackles and one TFL in the run game, but the Dolphins’ defense was generally abused all day long.
  • Two more Tar Heel defenders’ teams faced each other in one of the week’s quieter games, an NFC West showdown between Nazair Jones and the Seattle Seahawks and Tre Boston’s Arizona Cardinals. Jones’ use on the Seattle defensive line has curiously faded, from around 30% of defensive snaps last season to around 15% this season (about 10 plays a game). Seattle is kind of in disarray though, so it’s hard to know what to make of that. Jones had a tackle and a QB hit in Seattle’s 20-17 win over the worst team in the league. Boston has been a rare bright spot for Arizona, though, and made that known with 11 solo tackles in the game.
  • Ryan Switzer is gelling more and more with Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense. In the Steelers’ 24-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, he played 33% (21 plays) of the Steelers’ offensive snaps, more than twice what he’d done in any game to this point, and made the most of it with 7 catches on 7 targets for 32 yards, leading the team in catches. The low yardage was just as much a function of Roethlisberger’s inaccuracy, which at one point caused a 7-yard loss on a bubble screen, as it is of his use as a short route slot receiver. Add one jet sweep and Switzer got the ball more than a third of the time that he was on the field. That’s really good. It is still unclear what Dallas and Oakland were thinking. On the other side, James Hurst held up strong against Pittsburgh’s front, helping hold them to just 2 sacks for 8 yards.