As the regular season begins to wind down and the 2020 NFL Playoff picture continues to shape itself, several former Maryland football players went off in Week 15.
On both sides of the ball, former Terps continue to have success in the league. It also seems likely that multiple former Terps will play in the playoffs this year, and as they tried to help their teams clinch a berth, they performed well.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs continues to have the best season of his career in his first year in Western New York. On Saturday against Denver, he caught 11 passes for 147 yards. Diggs now has 111 receptions this season, the most he’s ever had, which broke the Bills’ franchise record for most receptions in a season, passing Eric Moulds’ 100 catches in the 2002 season.
He's just that good. #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/i88SMTPDN7— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 19, 2020
The fifth-year receiver stacks up among the NFL’s best. He currently ranks first in the NFL in receptions this season with 111, is tied with Keenan Allen for first in targets with 147 and third in receiving yards with 1,314, which is 10 yards behind the league leader, DeAndre Hopkins. He has found the endzone four times, as well.
Diggs and the Bills improved to 11-3 and clinched the AFC East division title with their win over the Broncos. The former Terp helped Buffalo capture its first division title since 1995. The Bills are currently the 3-seed in the AFC Playoff picture. Buffalo will travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts to take on the Patriots on Monday Night Football next week.
New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson recorded his eighth interception of the year when he picked off Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on the goal line. His eight interceptions is good for the second-most in the NFL behind Miami’s Xavien Howard, who has nine picks.
JC Jackson’s EIGHTH interception of the year! #GoPats— NFL (@NFL) December 20, 2020
: #NEvsMIA on CBS
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/EJLjYXQNy2 pic.twitter.com/I0O3dgBmze
The third-year man had eight interceptions combined during his first two seasons in the NFL and has tied that with a strong 2020 campaign. Jackson added four total tackles, three of which were solo tackles, and a pass deflection against the Dolphins.
With a loss to Miami, New England was eliminated from playoff contention and will miss the postseason for the first time since 2008. Jackson and his squad will host the Bills next week and he will potentially matchup with Diggs.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver DJ Moore went off again on Saturday night against Green Bay after missing last week’s game with a knee injury. Moore bounced back in a huge way, catching six passes for 131 yards and recorded one rushing attempt for one yard.
Moore’s speed was always one of his best attributes as a receiver and he has now accompanied that with an improved ability to break tackles and be more physical. Against the Packers, he broke away from three tacklers turning his reception into a much bigger gain, before he was pushed out of bounds by fellow former Terp and former college teammate Darnell Savage Jr.
DJ Moore is built different— PFF (@PFF) December 20, 2020
The second-year man is now 11th in the NFL in receiving yards this season with 1,055 yards. Carolina fell to 4-10 with its loss to the Packers and will travel to the DMV area to face the Washington Football Team next week.
Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage Jr. was all over the stat sheet, yet again. The second-year player has started every game that he’s played in this season. This week, he recorded six total tackles, all of which were solo tackles, against Carolina.
Savage also recorded a tackle for loss and a pass deflection while playing 100% of the Packers’ defensive snaps for the third straight week. His pass deflection was so impressive as he has become so instinctual at the next level.
Darnell Savage's tape at Maryland was some of the most fun you could have studying the 2019 draft.— Jake Morley (@JacobMorley) December 20, 2020
Because of plays like this, he is so instinctual, he isn't thinking out there anymore, and Green Bay is using him in a playmaking role (finally)
Love the smile at the end. pic.twitter.com/lS1mTf27Vy
He now has nine pass deflections on the year, which is four more than he had as a rookie in more games played. Savage continues to outdo his rookie year and has cemented himself as a top secondary option in Green Bay.
The Packers improved to 11-3 with their win over the Panthers and they sit atop the entire NFC with the Saints one game behind. Green Bay will host Tennessee on Sunday Night Football next week before ending the regular season at Chicago in Week 17.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Yannick Ngakoue played his best game in the purple and black against one of his former teams. He recorded three total tackles, all of which were solo tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. One of his two sacks on Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew II was a strip sack, which was his fourth forced fumble of the season tying his total from last season with Minnesota.
Terps in @Ravens Purple— Maryland Terrapins (@umterps) December 20, 2020
Two sacks and a forced fumble for @YannickNgakoue! pic.twitter.com/jB9Xid4rgx
“They brought me here to change the game ... and that’s what I intend on doing,” said Ngakoue in his postgame press conference.
Ngakoue has become one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and has become a huge piece to Baltimore’s defense since acquiring him in the middle of the season. The Ravens destroyed Jacksonville, 40-14, improving to 9-5 on the season. They sit right outside of the playoff picture, but will host the Giants next week to try and make their way into the postseason.
New York Jets running back Ty Johnson had another solid performance this week. The second-year back ran three times for 16 yards but did most of his damage on the receiving end, catching a team-high six passes (tied with Jamison Crowder) for 39 yards and a touchdown, which was his first career receiving touchdown in the NFL.
Big-time speed from @T_Johns6— New York Jets (@nyjets) December 20, 2020
#NYJvsLAR on FOX pic.twitter.com/51y8cyIwHj
Johnson’s opening drive touchdown marked the eighth straight opening drive that the Jets have scored on. He ran for a touchdown two weeks ago and barely had a role offensively last week, but turned it on for the Jets this week, en route to their first win of the season.
The Jets, now 1-13, moved into 31st place overall in the NFL, meaning that they would have the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft if the season ended today, with Jacksonville having the No. 1 pick. Johnson will look to maintain this role offensively as New York will face Cleveland next week.
- Carolina linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. started in his fourth consecutive game against Green Bay. Carter recorded six combined tackles, three of which were solo tackles on just 31 defensive snaps. His role has been up and down all season, but he seems to have solidified himself as a reliable option for Matt Rhule’s defense.
- Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson recored just one total tackle in Saturday’s game, but he did combine for a tackle for loss. Jefferson is looking to complete one of the best seasons of his career as the Bills push towards the postseason.
- Byron Cowart of the New England Patriots recorded just one solo tackle in Sunday’s loss to Miami. Cowart did see a lot more time on the field having played his most defensive snaps (36) since Week 9, though his production remained the same.
- Chicago Bears linebacker Josh Woods recorded one tackle in the Bears 33-27 win over Minnesota. Woods continues to mainly play on special teams for Chicago as he only played one defensive snap in this game and 17 special teams snaps. The Bears at 7-7 will face the Jaguars next week.
- Washington Football Team rookie running back Javon Leake was reverted back to the practice squad on Dec. 14 after playing one game for Washington last week.
- Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland Jr. recorded just one rush for five yards and one catch for nine yards, despite starting back James Conner being inactive. McFarland played behind Benny Snell as the Steelers lost their third straight game on Monday against the Bengals.
- Steelers’ saftey Sean Davis and running back Trey Edmunds and offensive tackle Derwin Grey did not record a stat in Monday night’s game against Cincinnati. Safety Antoine Brooks Jr. was inactive.