By: Barry Barnes, Founder
Week 16 of the NFL was all about taking the bull by its horns and not relinquishing control. Many of the standout players from the NFL Regional Combine are known assets for their clubs, however, a few finally got to punch in for work on the field before the grind of the 2016 NFL campaign ended with career days.
After nearly two seasons, tight end Matt Lengel earned his way onto the field – in New England. Lengel spend all of last season and majority of this year on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad, until the Patriots signed him and placed him on their active roster for Week 13.
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Shortly after, All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski went down for the season due to a back injury and Lengel emerged from being a blocker to a target.
With 2:47 remaining in the first half on second-and-8 from the Jets’ 18, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady rifled a pass over the middle to Lengel with Jets rookie cornerback Juston Burris draped on his back for a 18-yard touchdown.
Lengel’s touchdown was his first NFL reception, and an early birthday present.
“Definitely ranks as the best Christmas gift, and birthday gift I could ever have, said Lengel.”
Former Patriot, now Philadelphia Eagles rookie linebacker Kamu Gruiger-Hill got a stuff during a kickoff return for his sixth tackle of the season – all on special teams)
After four solid seasons in the NFL, Los Angeles Rams safety Cody Davis finally earned his first career interception.
Against the San Francisco 49ers with 2:53 left in the first quarter, quarterback Colin Keapernick went deep down the right side of the field to tight end Garrett Celek. Davis played center field for the over thrown pass and returned the play for 29 yards.
Davis’ first career turnover gave Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff great field position at the 49ers’ 30 yard line to connect with wide receiver Tavon Austin for a 30-yard score on the next play.
Davis is having a solid, career year with 13 tackles and four pass defensed.
For the Rams, Davis was not alone.
Three-time Pro Bowl punter Johnny Hekker placed himself into the NFL history books for landing the most punts into the 20 yard line for a season with 47. Hekker broke the all-time single record, which was held by Dave Zastudil since 2012, with four.
“The number really snuck up on us,” said Hekker said about his 47th punt, according to NBC Los Angeles.com. “We didn’t even really think about it until probably the last weeks, when we were like, ‘Hey, damn, we’re at 40.’ We’re just trying to do what we can to help this team. If records come with that, that’s a positive.
“I’m so grateful to be playing under Coach Fassel and with the rest of the special teams group that takes so much pride in what we do,” added Hekker. “I really owe it to the other guys that go out there and make me look good on a consistent basis.”
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Let’s keep this career achievements theme going!
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen lit up the stats chart against the Green Bay Packers.
Midway through the second quarter with 7:35 on the clock, Vikings Sam Bradford wasted no time locking in on his new favorite target as he threw deep to Thielen down the right side of the field for a 71-yard touchdown – his career-long high.
Thielen’s 71-yard score was a sign to come as he hauled in 12 receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns – all career-highs for a single game.
San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker Jatavis Brown picked up from where he left off as the leading tackler on the squad in Week 8 to leading the team in take downs with 10, including a sack, against the Cleveland Browns.
With 5:33 left in the first half, Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III took the ball from under center, and before he could react, Brown and linebacker Kyle Emanuel corral him for a four-yard loss.
Tennessee Titans cornerback Valentine Blake blasted the Jacksonville Jaguars for a team-high nine tackles. Blake definitely made his presents felt during the second half of the season.
And it’s not too late for anyone else.