Former Dawgs in the NFL

Stafford back on track, Rams’ offense can’t get Gurley going and A.J. Green gave defensive backs a week off on the Bengals bye week

Matthew Stafford took a week off from leading the Lions to 4th quarter comebacks last week. But this Sunday in Minnesota Stafford made it happen for the Lions again. Detroit lead the game after putting points on the board on their first drive with a field goal, which Minnesota answered with a field goal of their own in the second quarter. With 9:50 left in the first half tied at 3-3, Stafford orchestrated a 17-play, 84-yard drive that ended with Anquan Bolden in the end zone with a pass from Stafford and only five seconds left on the game clock. Stafford was 10 of 11 on the final drive of the half, and the Lions took a 10-3 lead on the division leaders into the locker room. In the fourth quarter, the Vikings took their first lead with only 23 seconds left in the game – which ended up being just enough time for Stafford to throw the ball into field goal range. From the 25-yardline following a touchback, Stafford completed an eight-yard pass and a 27-yard pass to put the Lions in position for a 58-yard field goal. When the game got to overtime, the Lions won the coin flip and Vikings' fans cringed knowing Stafford had the ability to end the game with a touchdown. On the only possession of overtime, the Lions’ quarterback drove the ball 87 yards for the score. On the drive, much like the final drive of the first half, Stafford was 5 of 6 for 73 yards. The pass to Golden Tate was a short pass that Tate made spectacular by undressing a defender on the sideline and tiptoeing the boundary line, diving into the end zone and ending the game.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Matthew Stafford. Golden Tate.<br><br>FOR THE WIN.<br>BALL GAME. <a href="">#OnePride</a> <a href="">#DETvsMIN</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NFL (@NFL) <a href="">November 6, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

With the win, the Lions are now only a half-game back of the division-leading Vikings in the NFC North and trailing the New York Giants and Washington Redskins by the same amount for the Wild Card spot. In the thick of the playoff hunt, Stafford has not only kept the Lions’ postseason aspirations alive but also put himself in the MVP consideration.

Last week, I predicted that unless Case Keenum and the Rams passing attack kept the Panthers’ defense honest they would stack the box and keep Todd Gurley contained. In every matchup this season, opposing defenses have prevented Gurley from beating them by forcing Keenum to beat them. His inability to move the ball downfield has wrecked  Gurley’s production and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better for last year’s Rookie of the Year. Gurley had a season-low 12 carries for only 48 yards against the Panthers. For a third straight week, he failed to get in the end zone and only reeled in four catches for 26 yards. His projected rushing yard total continues to fall shorter of 1,000 yards every week with the lack of production. With five of their last seven games against teams with rushing defenses that rank in the top half of fewest rushing yards allowed, so the quest for 1,000 yards won’t get any easier for Todd. This week, the Rams play the Jets, who rank fifth in fewest rushing yards allowed.

On the defensive side of the ball in the Rams-Panthers game, two former Bulldog linebackers contributed to their defense's success in a low scoring game. The signal caller and leader of the Rams defense, Alec Ogletree, recorded nine combined tackles. It wasn't his best performance of the season, but Ogletree ranks fifth in total tackles among middle linebackers in the NFL. For the Carolina Panthers, Thomas Davis continues to contribute to the Panthers defense at the age of 33. Davis can't compete in the combined tackles because his teammate, Luke Keuchly, is a tackling machine that gets to the ball more frequently than just about everybody in the league - but Davis did record double digit tackles for the second time this season (11 against the Rams). 

In other news on the defensive front of former Bulldogs, Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston is expected to be activated from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Wednesday's deadline, said Andy Reid. After coming a mere half-sack short of breaking Michael Strahan's single-season sack record of 22.5 in 2014, Houston battled in 2015 with a knee injury that eventually needed surgery in the offseason to repair his ACL. It is still unclear if Houston will play this week, but he should return to game action sometime in the near future.

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