Former Longhorns push towards the playoffs

Donnavan Smoot

With the NFL postseason right around the corner, players league-wide are coming into form to help push their teams to the playoffs. Here are how a few former Longhorns fared on fields across the nation this weekend.

Derrick Johnson:

Johnson recorded three tackles in Sunday’s loss against the Buffalo Bills, continuing an underwhelming season by his standards. The 35-year-old linebacker has 51 tackles this year, putting him on pace to have less tackles than last season, 90, and significantly lower than his total two years ago, 116. Granted, the fact that Johnson came into the season healing an Achilles tendon injury, the decline in play is understandable.

Johnson will be needed by the Kansas City Chiefs if they are going to right their ship. Kansas City has gone 1–5 in their previous six games after starting 5–0. Johnson’s veteran presence and leadership will be needed and tested in the upcoming weeks if the Chiefs want to make the playoffs, much less make a run at the Lombardi trophy.

Kenny Vaccaro:

The Saints played the second best scoring offense this past week in the Los Angeles Rams and came up short, 26-20. They were down both starting corners which put extra emphasis on the back end of the defense, led by safety Kenny Vaccaro. The former Longhorn standout was on the field for all 77 plays the Saints had to defend, ending the game with five tackles.

Sunday’s loss snapped the Saints eight-game winning streak. During the loss, Vaccaro allowed a 53-yard play after he was beat on a route by rookie receiver Cooper Kupp. But even with the loss, New Orleans is still in the thick of the NFC playoff race. The Saints will host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in a pivotal NFC South matchup.

Earl Thomas:

With two of the star members of the Legion of Boom gone for the season, the Seahawks looked to Earl Thomas to keep them afloat in the NFC playoff race. After a loss to Atlanta on Monday Night Football, Thomas and the Seahawks’ defense got a boost from playing the now 1–10 San Francisco 49ers. Thomas and the still-impressive Seahawks’ defense held the 49ers to 13 points. The All-Pro safety had five tackles in the win.

Earl Thomas is feeling the pressure that fellow former Longhorn Kenny Vaccaro is feeling as Thomas is playing without two of the top star teammates on the defense. Now, he’ll look to use this past win to rally the troops and keep the momentum going in order to get the Seahawks into the playoffs. Their next contest won’t be an easy one, though. The 10–1 Philadelphia Eagles come into town this week for a battle on Sunday night.