Despite the fact that it's the end of the NFL regular season, many Buckeyes are feeling like their season has just begun. The playoffs start next week, and teams with several former Ohio State stars such as the 49ers, Vikings and Packers will continue on to the NFL's second season. In the endings column, many NFL teams are going home, and some Buckeyes are going home due to injury. But many others are beginning a new journey, and one notable and controversial Buckeye got his first taste of starting in the NFL.
We'll start off with some early afternoon games that didn't matter a darn in the playoff schemes, but sure mattered to the former Buckeye stars playing in them. Nick Mangold's Jets, who have certainly by now checked out due to all the drama, were walloped by B-Leez's Buffalo Bills, 28-9 (happy Chan Gailey firing, Brett!) The Cleveland Browns were good for what ailed the Steelers after their season-ending loss to the Bengals. Mike Adams did not play, although he was voted the Steelers' rookie of the year by his teammates in the week leading up to the game. Will Allen also did not record a statistic for the Steelers, but Cameron Heyward had probably the best game of his career up to this point, recording four tackles and half a sack. Elsewhere in meaningless AFC games, Michael Brewster started for the Jaguars again. Unfortunately, he could not help his team get its third victory as they were walloped 38-20 by Tennessee.
Moving over to the NFC, Kurt Coleman returned for the Eagles only to have his team crushed by Jim Cordle's Giants, 42-7. Coleman recorded 9 tackles (6 solo) and was, as usual, running around in circles trying to defend the New York receivers. For the Saints, Will Smith was the only Buckeye active (Malcolm Jenkins was out with an injury) and he couldn't help his defense in an offensive shootout against the Panthers. Smith recorded four tackles and a pass batted down in a 44-38 loss.
Two Buckeyes had strong efforts for the Lions, which ultimately fell short in their 26-24 defeat to the Bears. Rob Sims held Pro Bowler Henry Melton to two tackles and zero sacks, while Brian Robiskie had two catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. Other Buckeye receivers contributed as well to their teams' losing efforts. DeVier Posey has had a reception in three straight games for the Texans, and had one catch for 16 yards in their loss to the Colts. Brian Hartline had a decent game for the Dolphins, recording five reception for 69 yards to lead the team. Most unfortunately, his team could not score against the Patriots. Nate Ebner was unfortunately inactive for the Pats, as was Anderson Russell for the Fins. Austin Spitler did not record a stat.
The Bengals are locked into the sixth seed in the playoffs and defeated the Ravens in what was ultimately a glorified preseason game. Unfortunate news came out before the game that Mike Nugent was placed on IR due to a badly strained calf. Nate Clements got lots of playing time with Chris Crocker's in-game injury, and played pretty poorly overall. He finished with 4 tackles (2 solo) but gave up a bad penalty and was burned on a near-miss incompletion to Jacoby Jones. My Bengals will play Luke's Texans next week in a rematch of last year. Both of us are sure to go back and forth all week telling each other why our respective teams will lose.
Before we get to the big games, we'll take a trip out west where many of our former Buckeye stars reside. Chris Wells – already counting down the days until he leaves Arizona – would up not playing, but many of the other Buckeyes for the 49ers did. Alex Boone, snubbed for the Pro Bowl, continued his good play. Ted Ginn, Jr. had a punt return for 28 yards that was thisclose to a touchdown. First time Pro Bowler Donte Whitner had a solid game, making 5 tackles (4 solo) and recovering a fumble. We also had a Larry Grant sighting, as he contributed a tackle on special teams. Elsewhere in the NFC West, James Laurinaitis had an off game, only contributing 5 tackles (2 solo) in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Jake McQuaide finished the season without a bad snap, so congratulations are in order for the Rams' long-snapper.
The real story out west, though, was Terrelle Pryor's first start. And despite the misdirected vitriol that still remains for T-Peezy in Columbus, it was clear that he has moved on. He had a pretty good game despite completing less than 50% of his passes, as he threw for 150 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for a 72.0 rating. He also ran for another touchdown on 9 carries for 49 yards. By no fault of his own, the Raiders fell 24-21 to the Chargers. I say good on him.
The biggest game of the week involved the Packers and Vikings - two teams that have some Buckeye starters. For Ted Glover's victorious Vikings, Michael Jenkins had a solid game. He grabbed three passes for 37 yards and a key touchdown helping key the Vikings' playoff berth. Antoine Winfield gamely tried to play through a broken finger and hand, but could not make it happen. Rest assured he'll be back for the playoff rematch next week in Lambeau. AJ Hawk and Ryan Pickett contributed four tackles apiece, with Hawk having two tackles for loss and Pickett with a pass defensed. These two teams will meet again next week in the playoffs.
Former Buckeye defensive tackle Doug Worthington was mostly an observer in the Sunday night game, but helped in spirit as the Redskins topped the Cowboys, 28-18, to make a triumphant return to the NFL postseason.