It’s been a very unusual NFL championship weekend for former Alabama Crimson Tide players and coaches, and not because there are just a handful who still have a shot at playing in the Super Bowl.
A lot of the news concerning the Crimson Tide has been away from the field.
• Bill O’Brien, the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator the last two seasons, is heading back to have the same role with the New England Patriots. Consequently, he’s going from coaching Bryce Young, who won the 2021 Heisman Trophy and could be the first player selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, to Mac Jones.
• DeMeco Ryans, the defensive coordinator of the 49ers, may be the frontrunner to be the new head coach of the Denver Broncos.
But first he has to try and stop Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Jalen is looking a lot more comfortable within the offense, and scheme wise, it seems like they’ve put in more concepts that he’s more comfortable with and he has a really great command of the offense,” Ryans said during a press conference in San Francisco on Thursday.
“He’s decisive with where he’s going with the ball and they surround him with a lot of playmakers, adding [Philadelphia Eagles WR] A.J. Brown. Has a lot of playmakers around him, [Philadelphia Eagles WR DeVonta] Smith, Brown, the backs, tight ends, they have a really good core of guys, he distributes the ball really well. And those guys are really good after they catch the ball of making a guy miss and creating space and getting more yards after the catch, so they’ve done a really good job of just tailoring the offense around Jalen and that’s what makes him look more comfortable.”
Here’s five other things Crimson Tide fans need to know about Championship Weekend.
1) Jonah Williams is dealing with an injury
The starting left tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals has been dealing with a dislocated kneecap and was held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
“You know, every day that passes makes it probably a little more difficult, but we’ll see,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor told reporters on Wednesday.
Taylor was also referring to right guard Alex Cappa, who has been dealing with an ankle injury. Both he and Williams are listed as day-to-day.
The Bengals used three reserves on the offensive line during last week’s win at Buffalo. Jackson Carman stepped in at left tackle.
2) Won if by land
After scoring three touchdowns during last week’s Divisional Playoffs, including one rushing, Hurts needs one more on the ground to become the first quarterback in NFL history with 15 rushing touchdowns in a single season, including playoffs.
As a team, Philadelphia led the league with 32 rushing touchdowns in the regular season, tied for the second-most by a team in a season in the Super Bowl era. Last week, the Eagles totaled 268 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
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“I think there has to be a good balance with the shot plays and the running,” Ryans said about trying to stop the quarterback. “When you’re responsible for those shot plays, mainly our corners and safeties on the outside. We know the challenge that we have this week when guys have to go up and be able to make a play. They get opportunities when the ball is up, it’s an opportunity for us to go up and make the play. That’s how I view it and when it comes to him scrambling around, that’s all 11. It starts with our D-line being where they’re supposed to be and guys who are responsible to go get the quarterback. We just have to do our job.
“No, we can’t make a bigger deal out of it than it is. Everybody has to do their job, be where they’re supposed to be, and we play defense with all 11 as a group swarming. That’s what’s going to help us, defend the quarterback running.”
3) Ryans’ defense
San Francisco led the NFL in total defense (300.6), scoring defense (16.3) and turnover margin (+13) this season, and was second in rushing defense (77.7).
The 49ers didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher this season, and have only seen two in 39 games (including playoffs) since Ryans took over as defensive coordinator.
In addition to making 20 interceptions during the regular season, which tied for the league lead, the 49ers had 30 takeaways. That tied for second, just ahead of the Eagles, who were tied for fourth with 27.
4) Devonta Smith
The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner led Philadelphia with six catches for 61 yards and had one touchdown last week when the Eagles eliminated Brian Daboll and the New York Giants.
During the regular season, he had a career-best 95 catches for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith and Brown were the league’s only pair of teammates who both had 85-plus catches and 1,100 or more receiving yards.
5) Big 12 rematch
The 24-year-old Hurts and 23-year-old Brock Purdy will be the first pair of starting quarterbacks in a conference championship game under age 25.
But it won’t be the fist time they squared off. As a true sophomore in 2019, Purdy led Iowa State to 20 fourth-quarter points before Hurts and Oklahoma held off the Cyclones, 42-41. Hurts totaled 341 yards (273 passing, 68 rushing) and five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) while Purdy threw for 282 yards and five touchdowns, and added 55 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Bonus) Record watch
This is a bit of a reach, but Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has 513 receiving yards in six career postseason games (85.5 per game), the second-most ever by a player in his first two seasons (Charlie Brown, 643). With five catches this weekend he’ll become just the second player in league history with at least five receptions in each of his first second career playoff games, joining Wes Welker.
He can also become the fifth player with at least 50 receiving yards in each of his first seven career playoff games, joining a group including Julio Jones.
If that doesn’t work for you, we’ll just mention that guard Landon Dickerson, the former Alabama player who slapped a big piece of wood on his trick after losing the front bumper, plays for the Eagles.
“Their offensive line is the strength of that team,” Ryans said.
Alabama Crimson Tide Players in the NFL
Tracking Active Alabama Crimson Players in the NFL
Alabama Crimson Tide Players in the NFL: Breakdown by Team
Active Alabama Crimson Tide Players in the NFL by Position
All-Time Alabama Crimson Tide Players in the NFL
All-Time Alabama Crimson Tide Players in the NFL By Team
Former Alabama Crimson Tide Players Selected in the NFL Draft
All-Time Alabama Crimson Tide Players Drafted by Round
NFL Draft: All-Time Alabama Crimson Tide Selections by NFL Teams
Alabama Crimson Tide Players Selected in the NFL Draft by Position
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