With the NFL regular season now over, unfortunately for all those who enjoy the top four Tar Heels list here on KIH, it too now must come to an end. Week 17 was a win or go home weekend for many teams still fighting for a playoff spot and for the most part, the games that did not have meaning were still somewhat competitive.
Below is the top former Tar Heel performers in the NFL this past Sunday.
Zach Brown LB Tennessee Titans
The Titans were able to finish the season on a positive note winning at home 38-20 over the Jaguars. Thanks to the play of their defense and special teams, the Titans only needed ten points from the offense and were still able to run away with this game. Tennessee was just the second team in NFL history to record four return-touchdowns in a single game. Rookie linebacker Zach Brown continued to show how talented and fast he really is by returning to interceptions for touchdowns, including one for 79 yards. The former Tar Heel star finished the game with just one unassisted tackle, two interception returned for touchdowns, and one sack. Brown has definitely proven himself worthy of being selected 52nd overall in the 2012 NFL Draft and could be a potential playmaker on the Titans defense for years to come.
Connor Barth Kicker Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers were another team not fighting for much but pride on Sunday and still managed to beat the playoff bound Atlanta Falcons on the road in the Georgia Dome. The Bucs won 22-17 thanks to the leg of their veteran kicker Connor Barth. The former UNC kicker finished Sundays upset win over the Falcons with three field goals and one extra point made. Barth connected on field goals of 22-yards, 42-yards, and a big 48-yard field goal in the first quarter giving the Buccaneers an early 3-0 lead.
Brandon Tate WR Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals were able to win their third straight game to end the season by beating the Baltimore Ravens 23-17 at home in Cincinnati. The starters on both sides did not play the entire game giving way for most of the backups to make plays and try to grind out a win for either side. Both teams were already locked in to their respective playoff spots making the game meaningless when it came to getting into the tournament(but I’m sure if you ask the coaches, every divisional game in the AFC North means something). Fourth year wide-out Brandon Tate led the Bengals in receiving yards by finishing the game with a total of 53-yards on three receptions. Tate, a former Tar Heel standout, also finished Sundays match-up with a total of 28-yards on two kick returns.
Julius Peppers DE Chicago Bears
Sunday the Bears were able to win a tough game in Detroit over the Lions 26-24. Unfortunately for the Bears, it was all too little, too late. Chicago needed help from several other teams in order to clinch a playoff spot and just didn’t get the required assistance from those other franchises during Sundays later games. Overall though, Chicago’s defense did play a half-way decent game Sunday and defensive end Julius Peppers was productive enough to make the final NFL top four Tar Heel list of the regular season. The former two-sport star at Chapel Hill finished Sunday with one pass defended, one fumble recovery, and one quarterback hit on Matthew Stafford(just the fifth game in his 11 seasons in which he finished without at-least one sack or one tackle, solo or un-assisted). Obviously though, not much other than maybe a Super Bowl run was going to be enough in the case for Lovie Smith. Now, all is not merry in Chicago during this holiday season after this ten win team was left at home without a playoff birth. Then, on what they call “Black Monday” in the NFL after the regular season ends, the Chicago Bears parted ways with longtime head coach Lovie Smith after nine seasons.