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Stanford in the NFL: Big performances, big controversies

Stanford alumnus Coby Fleener scored two touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints, one on the ground and one on a 50-yard reception, highlighting a strong group of Stanford alumni making gains over the air in NFL Week 6 action. (JIM SHORIN/isiphotos.com)

Stanford alumni nationwide both flexed their strengths as well as stirred controversy in a rollercoaster of NFL Week 6 action, with some players experiencing tough losses. The Cardinal performed well specifically in the air, where Stanford players of the past provided crucial yards for their teams down the stretch.

The best performance from Stanford this weekend came from Saints’ tight end Coby Fleener recording his second and third touchdown this season, the first coming on a fourth-and-1 sweeping touchdown run, his first rushing touchdown in his career. The play continues to draw question as well as praise for its ingenuity and creativity, completely catching Carolina’s defensive end Charles Johnson off guard.

After the game, Fleener talked to the New Orleans Advocate Saints’ reporter Joel Erickson about his late-game heroics, saying, “It’s something we’ve worked on during the week. Initially, when you hear the call, it seems a little outlandish, but obviously, coach knows what he’s doing. I was excited that we went for it on fourth down. I think that’s a great move. Worst case, we pin them down there, and it worked out for us.”

In addition to notching a running touchdown in the third quarter, Fleener scored a spectacular 50-yard touchdown as one of his six catches on the night, the second highest number on the team. Fleener finished with 74 yards in addition to his 2-yard touchdown run as the Saints edged a capitulating Carolina Panthers squad, 41-38.

Coby Fleener wasn’t the only Stanford alumnus to earn yardage over the air, however, as fellow tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver Ty Montgomery and wide receiver Doug Baldwin all took part in their respective teams’ passing offenses this past weekend.

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz recorded only one catch on the night for 22 yards, his longest catch on the season so far, as the Eagles dropped their second consecutive game of the season. After starting out hot, Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has looked a little more mortal in these past two games, though both were only one-possession games.

Packers’ receiver Ty Montgomery, entering Sunday’s action against the Cowboys with zero receptions on the season, caught 10 passes from a struggling Aaron Rodgers for a total of 98 yards on the night. Despite Montgomery’s solid performance, however, Green Bay dropped to 3-2 on the season while losing its first game at home to the steamrolling, one-loss Dallas Cowboys.

Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin found seams through the Falcons defense to earn four catches this past Sunday for a standard 31 yards on the night, contributing to his team’s controversial win over the Falcons, revolving, coincidentally, around fellow Stanford alumnus cornerback Richard Sherman.

Sherman covered the Falcons’ extraordinary receiving talent, Julio Jones, on the last play of the game, a heave from Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. With time expiring, Sherman appeared to hook Jones’ arms in the process of the play, but the no-call decision from the referees ended the game in controversy.

Sherman’s actions have caused a wave of comments, spearheaded by Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and continued by other head coaches, such as Saints head coach Sean Payton, surrounding whether pass interference should be reviewable in late-game scenarios.

Quinn commented to ESPN in his postgame interview after losing only their second game on the season, “It’s something that the league has certainly considered in the past — which plays are, which plays aren’t. I think the topic is there because the penalty is so big, at times. I’m certain it will be something that the competition committee will look into. They’ve certainly discussed it before. But as far as where we will go, it’s something to discuss in the offseason.”

Stanford’s marquee alumnus, Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, had another mediocre game in an AFC battle against the Houston Texans, as Luck continues to have little to no apparent luck with his supporting cast this season. The Colts’ season continues to spiral downward, but Luck is at least enjoying starting stability behind center after losing a lot of time last season to injury.

No Stanford alumni featured in Monday night’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets, so Stanford fans will now have to wait for Week 7 to watch the return of their favorite alumni.

 

Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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