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Stanford in the NFL: Unsung heroes carry the load

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“Jake’s had a great year for us and he continues to come in with some really big plays for us, flipping the field position,”said New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick in a conference call with the Boston Herald on Monday. 

Stanford alumnus Jake Bailey, the Patriots rookie punter, was in peak form against the Philadelphia Eagles this past Sunday. In what was a low-scoring, 17-10 victory, every play mattered. Bailey’s eight punts traveled an average of 47.6 yards and six of his punts landed within the 20-yard line. Three of his punts pinned Philadelphia’s offense within the six-yard line. 

Bailey, who majored in Science, Technology and Society during his time on the Farm, has been a large reason for the Patriots’ 9-1 start. On the season, he is averaging a robust 45 yards per punt and has landed 27 within the 20-yard line.

On the losing side of this rematch of the 2018 Super Bowl, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz did his best to keep his offense afloat. His nine catches for 94 yards represented nearly half of all of Philly’s offense. 

Eagles wide receiver and Bailey’s former teammate, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, caught his lone pass for 29 yards. While this was his first catch since Week 3, Arcega-Whiteside could inject some life into an offense severely lacking it. 

Elsewhere in the NFL, usual suspect Christian McCaffrey continued to be a one-man wrecking crew out of the backfield for the Carolina Panthers. He caught 11 passes for 121 yards, and contributed another 70 yards on the ground in just 14 carries. However, his 25 touches were not enough, as the Panthers fell to the Atlanta Falcons, 29-3.

On the defensive side of the field, two former Cardinal players recorded sacks for their teams. Houston Texans outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett continued his strong play from before his team’s Week 10 bye, contributing 8 tackles and a sack. Defensive end Henry Anderson of the New York Jets secured his first sack of the season and racked up five tackles en route to a 34-17 Jets victory.

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and his team shook off their streak-breaking loss against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10 to take down the Arizona Cardinals 36-26. Despite just three tackles, Sherman was on the field for his second-highest snap total of the season, 69, and broke up a pass in his direction. His 49ers moved to 9-1 with the win.

On a worse note, injuries are piling up for the former Stanford players. Falcons tight end Austin Hooper is doubtful to play in Week 12 with a sprained MCL and guard Andrus Peat will likely miss the remainder of the New Orleans Saints’ regular season with a broken arm. Texans safety Justin Reid was diagnosed with a concussion in the second half of his game. 

The cohort of former Cardinal saw contributions from a variety of unlikely sources in Week 11. With the return of Blake Martinez (who currently ranks second in the NFL with 102 tackles) from a bye week, Stanford players in the NFL will look to overcome injuries and continue this recent strong play next weekend.

Contact Jeremy Rubin at jjmrubin ‘at’ stanford.edu.