Pitt in the NFL: McCoy, Eagles prepare for playoff push


By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

As NFL teams prepare to run the final stretch toward getting into the playoffs, several former Pitt players are playing a part in the struggle.

LeSean McCoy and the Philadelphia Eagles sit at 9-3 and are in first place in the NFC East division after knocking down their division rival, the Dallas Cowboys, on Thanksgiving Day. The Eagles cruised to a 33-10 win, and McCoy contributed a season-high 159 yards on 25 carries, scoring a touchdown as well.

This also came in only three quarters of work, because the Eagles rested their workhorse running back in the final quarter when the game was already out of reach. With the win, the Eagles control the division and have one of the best records in the NFC.

The Arizona Cardinals are one of the other 9-3 teams in the conference, but that record comes after a 29-18 loss on Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons. Former Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald did not play in that game, which contributed in part to the Cardinals’ lack of offensive success.

Fitzgerald missed his second straight game due to a Grade II MCL sprain in his knee. The 31-year-old is on the back side of his impressive career, and he has begun to lose snaps to young teammates such as Michael Floyd, John Brown and Andre Ellington.

But despite these struggles, the Cardinals are still a game ahead of the Seattle Seahawks in the competitive NFC West division, and they sit four games ahead of rookie Aaron Donald and the 5-7 St. Louis Rams.

Donald did not contribute much to the Rams’ defensive effort Sunday, yet the team still shut out the Oakland Raiders by a score of 52-0. Donald added one sack and one pass deflection to the team’s remarkable effort. Donald now has six sacks and 32 total tackles on the season, though it seems likely his Rams will not make the playoffs.

Cornerback Darrelle Revis had a difficult assignment in week 13, facing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the hostile environment of Lambeau Field. Rodgers has a plethora of receiving weapons at his disposal, and the quarterback threw for 390 yards and two touchdowns on the Patriots’ defense. The Packers went on to win the game 26-21.

Revis tallied only one tackle in the game, and he was beaten by Jordy Nelson for a long touchdown pass in the second quarter.

The Cleveland Browns and their pair of former Pitt defenders lost to the Buffalo Bills 26-10 to fall to 7-5 on the season. Though the highlight of the game might have been Browns’ backup quarterback Johnny Manziel entering the game, Jabaal Sheard and K’Waun Williams focused more on Sammy Watkins and the Bills’ offense.

Sheard recorded four tackles and Williams added two more in the loss. The two former Panthers now have 41 and 33 tackles on the season, respectively.

Longtime punter Andy Lee was moderately busy for the San Francisco 49ers on their Thanksgiving Day game against the Seahawks. Lee punted five times with a long of 53 yards. His longest punt this season went for 71 yards. The 7-5 49ers are right in the middle of the division race in the NFC West.