Three former Maryland football players took the field during the 2021 NFL conference championships, but the trio fell short of Super Bowl LV.
Darnell Savage Jr. and the Green Bay Packers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-26, in the NFC championship game, and Stefon Diggs, Quinton Jefferson and the Buffalo Bills fell to the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, 38-24, in the AFC championship game.
Savage, who played in his second consecutive NFC championship game, put up a solid performance against the Buccaneers. He finished with two total tackles and a quarterback hit on Tom Brady, which ultimately led to an interception from Jaire Alexander. Savage forced Brady to get rid of the ball and make a poor throw that his teammate was able to pick off.
This is a great defensive call by Mike Pettine, as the late disguise on the blitz by Darnell Savage forces the ball out quickly. Also notice how Jaire Alexander bails a bit pre-snap to prevent himself from being beat over the top. pic.twitter.com/trGAiLZ0G5— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) January 24, 2021
In just two years in the NFL, Savage has already reached the NFC championship game twice but is yet to get to the Super Bowl.
Savage wrapped up the best season of his career and cemented himself among the league’s best safeties. He finished the campaign with several career-highs. He set new career-highs in games played (17) — two of which were in the postseason — total tackles (79), pass breakups (12), interceptions (4), quarterback hits (3), sacks (1) and fumble recoveries (1).
Diggs played in the second conference championship game of his six-year career and fell short of the Super Bowl again. The former Terp didn’t look like himself for most of Sunday’s game, with the Chiefs defense holding him to 12 yards at the halftime break. He recorded six catches, on 11 targets, for 77 yards in the AFC championship game against Kansas City.
In the 2018 NFC championship game, Diggs lost to Philadelphia as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. This time, as a member of the Bills, Diggs and company were defeated by the Chiefs.
After the loss, Diggs was the last Bills player to leave the field and he stayed on the field at Arrowhead Stadium to watch the Chiefs celebrate the win and have their trophy ceremony.
Stefon Diggs is the only Bills player left on the field. He’s watching the Chiefs ceremony. pic.twitter.com/IzTuXuQ0oT— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) January 25, 2021
Diggs showed tons of emotion during the entire game and seemed to be frustrated with the story of the game. In the end, it seems there might be some unfinished business for Diggs and the Bills.
Stefon Diggs was emotional on the sidelines in the final minutes pic.twitter.com/rlSS1eDXgq— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 25, 2021
Diggs had an incredible season. He led the NFL in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535) in the regular season and also added eight touchdowns. In three postseason games, he recorded 20 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns.
In total, Diggs played in 19 games, caught 147 receptions for 1,846 yards and 10 touchdowns, while being named a First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl starter. He also became the first player in NFL history to have at least six catches in 17 games in one season. In his first season with the Bills he planted himself as one of the NFL’s best receivers.
Bills defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson tallied two total tackles in the AFC championship game. Like Savage and Diggs, Jefferson turned in one of the best season’s of his career.
He recorded multiple tackles in eight of the 19 games that he played in. He completed the regular season with 16 games played, 23 total tackles, six quarterback hits, three sacks, and a fumble recovery. During the postseason he played in three games and tallied five tackles.
Jefferson has now appeared the postseason the last three years with the previous two coming with Seattle. Jefferson and Diggs will look to go even further next year in their second seasons with Buffalo.