AROUND THE SHIELD — The team with the most former local football players in the National Football League is moving on in the playoffs after Seattle’s 17-9 win over Philadelphia that featured seven sacks.
Utah State’s Bobby Wagner (Seahawks) and SUU’s LeShaun Sims (Titans) will still be playing, while BYU’s Taysom Hill (Saints) and Kyle Van Noy (Patriots) saw a strong season end disappointingly early.
Here are how Utah high school and college football products fared during the NFL’s wild-card weekend, including a pair of overtime greats.
Seattle 17, Philadelphia 9
Bobby Wagner had seven tackles and a tackle for loss, and the Seahawks held Philadelphia to single-digit scoring en route to a 17-9 win Sunday in the NFL’s final game of the wild-card round.
The former Utah State standout who has become arguably the best middle linebacker in the league wasn’t alone in making big plays, either.
There was Brighton High and Utah alum Cody Barton, who had five tackles, a sack, a quarterback hurry and two passes defended in the Seahawks’ win. And there was former BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who had a tackle and a quarterback hurry in the win.
The Seahawks advanced to face BYU alum Jamaal Williams, Utah State grad Kyler Fackrell and the Packers next Sunday, Jan. 12 at 4:40 p.m. MST.
Minnesota 26, New Orleans 20 (OT)
Former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill had four rushes for a team-high 50 yards, two catches for 25 yards and a touchdown, and added a 50-yard pass in the Saints' overtime loss to the Vikings (11-6).
Hill set up New Orleans’ first touchdown in three distinct ways: first, he ran for an 11-yard gain. Then, with Drew Brees on the sideline, he hit Deonte Harris inside the five with a career-long 50-yard strike. Finally, the third-string signal caller was a lead blocker on Alvin Kamara’s 4-yard touchdown jaunt that gave the Saints a 10-3 advantage with 9:23 left in the half.
Oh, and Hill then casually sprinted downfield to lead the kickoff coverage team.
All in a days’ work, right?
Not quite. Hill then added a 20-yard touchdown catch from Brees in the fourth quarter to help the Saints (13-4) secure overtime.
"He's a good football player," Saints coach Sean Payton said of Hill, who will be a free agent this offseason. "He enjoys playing, and does a lot of things well. He competes — he’s really an asset for us, a great teammate, and he made a lot of plays."
But the lead didn’t last. Dalvin Cook’s 5-yard touchdown run gave Minnesota a 13-10 halftime lead, and the Vikings extended the lead to 10 on Cook’s 1-yard plunge with 3:30 to go in the third before Hill’s late score and a last-second 49-yard field goal by Wil Lutz.
Cook finished with 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Former Utah defensive back Marcus Williams had a team-high 10 tackles for New Orleans.
Great play — and even games or seasons — aside, all that matters is the end result, Hill said.
"It's as difficult as you can imagine," the former BYU quarterback said in the postgame locker room. "I'm certainly disappointed. We had a great season, a great team, and it hurts to go out like that."
The Vikings will face former BYU linebacker Fred Warner and San Francisco next Saturday, Jan. 11 at 2:35 p.m. MST.
Tennessee 20, New England 13
The Titans sent the Patriots home at the earliest point in the playoffs since 2009 — and raised questions around Tom Brady’s future with the franchise — but it wasn’t without a stout effort by Kyle Van Noy.
The former BYU linebacker had five tackles, and a 5-yard strip sack that the Titans recovered, for the Patriots (12-5).
After the game, while Patriots reporters sat in equal disbelief at a stunningly early playoff exit, Brady made headlines with a glib comment regarding his future in the league and the franchise.
"I was proud to be a part of this team, not only this year but every year," the 42-year-old quarterback said. "Again, I just don't know what’s going to happen and I’m not going to predict it. No one needs to make choices at this point."
Former Southern Utah cornerback LeShaun Sims played 11 special-teams snaps for the Titans (10-7), who will play at Baltimore in the divisional round next Saturday, Jan. 11 at 6:15 p.m. MST.
Houston 22, Buffalo 19 (OT)
Star Lotlulelei, the former Bingham High and Utah standout who started at defensive tackle, had two tackles for the Bills, who led by as much as 16-0 before Houston rallied.
That included a stop on fourth-and-one on the Texans’ final drive of regulation, stuffing Houston quarterback DeShaun Watson at the Buffalo 30 to set up a game-tying drive that ended in Steven Hauschka’s 47-yard field goal to force overtime.
Former Weber State defensive back Taron Johnson forced a fumble for the Bills (10-7).
The Texans (11-6) advanced to play at former BYU assistant coach Andy Reid and Kansas City in the divisional round next Sunday, Jan. 12 at 1:05 p.m. MST.