Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 39 FEBRUARY 2021 35 IRISH IN THE PROS NOTRE DAME IN THE NFL PLAYOFFS: WILD CARD AND DIVISIONAL ROUND HIGHLIGHTS • Chase Claypool (Played at Notre Dame from 2016-19), WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Snagged five catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns in the 12-4 Steelers' 48-37 loss to Cleveland in the wild card round … In 16 regular-season games, contributed 62 receptions for 873 yards and nine touchdowns, 10 carries for 16 yards and two scores, and six special teams tackles in 16 games … Became the first wide receiver in the Super Bowl era to score 10 touchdowns in his first 10 NFL games. • Cole Kmet (2017-19), TE, Chicago Bears: Recorded three catches for 16 yards in the 8-8 Bears' 21-9 loss at New Orleans in the wild card round … Played in all 16 regular-season games as a rookie, and had 28 catches for 243 yards and two touchdowns. • Equanimeous St. Brown (2015-17), WR, Green Bay Packers: Hauled in one catch for 27 yards in the 13-3 Packers' 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round … Had seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown, one carry for seven yards and one tackle on special teams in nine regular-season games. BY ANDREW MENTOCK W hen linebacker Manti Te'o reported to the Chicago Bears' practice squad in late October, the roster move barely garnered news coverage. He was eight years removed from finishing second in the voting for the 2012 Heisman Trophy — the first defense-only player to accomplish such a feat since 1980 — and had appeared in just eight games (four starts) since 2018. Te'o remained on the prac- tice squad and was inactive for each of the Bears' 10 remaining regular-season contests. In the finale against the Green Bay Packers, however, second-team All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith injured his elbow. A few days later, it was announced Smith would miss the Bears' wild card matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Not only was Te'o elevated from the practice squad to the active roster, but he also ended up playing a major role against his former team. He started at linebacker, played 58 snaps (69 per- cent of the team's total), recorded six tackles and performed admirably in pass coverage. Although the Bears trailed 21-3 at the time, his biggest play came dur- ing a goal-line stand halfway through the fourth quarter. On fourth-and- one, Saints quarterback Drew Brees ran up the middle, leaped into the air and stretched the ball toward the end zone where he was met by Te'o. Initially, it was ruled a touchdown, but upon further review, the call was overturned and the Bears received the football. SEVERAL FORMER IRISH PLAYERS LOSE ON WILD CARD WEEKEND Eight Fighting Irish alumni started for their respective teams on offense or defense during the opening round of the NFL playoffs, but only wide receiver Miles Boykin of the Balti- more Ravens emerged from the weekend victorious. Three-time All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson — he earned his third straight first-team selection from the Associated Press this year, to go along with his third Pro Bowl honor (second as a starter) — helped the Indianapolis Colts to an 11-5 record during the regular season, but the Colts dropped a 27-24 nail-bitter to the Buf- falo Bills Jan. 9. Later that day, defensive back Cole Luke con- tributed on special teams dur- ing the Washington Football Team's 31-23 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Linebacker Manti Te'o, offen- sive linemen Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars, and tight end Cole Kmet all started for the Chicago Bears, but were bounced from the postseason with a 21-9 loss to the New Or- leans Saints Jan. 10. Rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool and veteran defen- sive end Stephon Tuitt were featured players on a Pitts- burgh Steelers team that won its first 11 games of the campaign. However, they used up all of their early season magic and lost five of their last six contests, concluding with a 48-37 defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns Jan. 10. Boykin helped the Ravens knock off the Tennessee Titans 20-13 Jan. 10, but they fell to the Bills 17-3 in the divisional round six days later. Heading into the conference cham- pionship games Jan. 24, the lone ac- tive Fighting Irish alumni left in the NFL playoffs suit up for the Green Bay Packers. Wide receiver Equa- nimeous St. Brown has contributed to the Packers' No. 1-ranked offense, while defensive back KeiVarae Rus- sell was activated for the postseason. Russell played 11 special teams snaps in the 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams Jan. 16. Running backs CJ Prosise (Bucca- neers) and Dexter Williams (Packers) are practice squad players who have yet to receive any playing time in the postseason. ✦ Te'o started at linebacker, played 69 percent of the defensive snaps and made six tackles — including the final stop on a goal-line stand — in Chicago's 21-9 wild card loss to his former team New Orleans Jan. 10. PHOTO COURTESY NEW ORLEANS SAINTS Manti Te'o Plays Big Role For The Bears In The Playoffs

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