Across The Shield: C.J. Stroud and Justin Fields Make Highlight-Reel Throws, Buckeye Sack Tandems Shine and Austin Mack Stars in Grey Cup

By Dan Hope on November 21, 2023 at 10:10 am
C.J. Stroud
Troy Taormina – USA TODAY Sports

A pair of throws in Week 11 showed why it’s never been a more exciting time to watch former Ohio State quarterbacks play in the NFL.

In the second quarter of the Houston Texans’ game against the Arizona Cardinals, C.J. Stroud made what might have been his best pass yet as an NFL quarterback, slinging a perfectly placed deep ball with a rusher in his face to connect with Tank Dell in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.

In the third quarter of the Chicago Bears’ game against the Detroit Lions, Justin Fields delivered a deep dime of his own as he connected with DJ Moore for a laser-sharp 39-yard touchdown.

Both quarterbacks also had plays on Sunday that they’d certainly like to have back. In Stroud’s case, he threw more interceptions against the Cardinals (three) than he had in his first nine NFL games combined (two). But Stroud still did enough for the Texans to win their third straight game as he completed 27 of 37 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns, and his confidence was unshaken by his uncharacteristically turnover-prone game.

Stroud became just the second rookie quarterback in NFL history, joining Joe Burrow, to pass for more than 300 yards in three straight games. His 2,962 passing yards this season are the fourth-most ever for an NFL quarterback in his first 10 career games.

Fields had one of his best games of the season in his return to action after missing four games with a thumb injury. While he didn’t put up huge numbers through the air, completing 16 of 23 passes for 169 yards, he had his best game of the season as a runner, gaining 104 yards on 18 carries. With his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, he became just the third quarterback in NFL history with five or more 100-yard rushing games, joining Lamar Jackson and Michael Vick.

As has happened too often in his three years with the Bears, however, the game ended on a sour note. In a particularly sour note this week of all weeks, the Bears’ 31-26 loss to the Lions – in a game they led by 12 points with three minutes to play – was sealed when former Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson sacked Fields and the resulting fumble went through the Bears’ own end zone for a safety.

Buckeye sack tandems shine

Two NFL teams currently have pairs of former Ohio State pass rushers playing together on their defenses. Each member of those pairs had a sack on Sunday.

In their second game together in San Francisco, Nick Bosa and Chase Young each had sacks in the 49ers’ 27-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bosa helped force two Baker Mayfield turnovers as he combined with Fred Warner on a strip sack and set up a Ji’Ayir Brown interception with a quarterback hit, and the former Ohio State defensive end seemed to take extra joy in making those plays against the quarterback who planted an Oklahoma flag at the 50-yard line of Ohio Stadium in 2017.

Young now has 6.5 sacks on the year after beating Buccaneers left tackle Tristan Wirfs to take down Mayfield for a sack of his own late in the game.

Baron Browning and Jonathon Cooper had a productive game of their own on Sunday Night Football as they helped lead the Denver Broncos to their fourth straight victory. Browning made his presence felt on the game early as he forced a Josh Dobbs fumble on the Minnesota Vikings’ opening drive, while he also came up with a big sack to stop Dobbs as he attempted to scramble on 3rd-and-1 in the game’s final minute.

Cooper recorded five total tackles with two tackles for loss – all in the first half – including a third-down sack that forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal.

Joey Bosa suffers foot sprain

The younger Bosa had a much better day than his older brother on Sunday, as Joey Bosa was carted back to the locker room after suffering a foot injury in the first quarter of the Los Angeles Chargers’ loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Bosa’s emotional reaction to the injury led to speculation that his injury could be season-ending, but the former Ohio State defensive end appears to have avoided that fate. That said, Chargers coach Brandon Staley said Monday that Bosa will likely be placed on injured reserve – meaning he will miss at least four games – with a sprained foot.

It’s been an injury-plagued season for Bosa from the beginning, as he also played through a broken toe and a hamstring injury earlier in the season. Even so, Bosa has recorded 20 total tackles with 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass deflection in nine games.

Roby makes key play in Super Bowl rematch

The Philadelphia Eagles avenged their Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night, and one of their newest acquisitions played a key role in making it happen.

With the Chiefs up 17-14 and driving to potentially take a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, former Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby – in just his third game as an Eagle – forced a crucial Travis Kelce fumble with a textbook “Peanut Punch” to keep Philadelphia down by only three points.

That turnover would prove to be a major moment in the game as the Eagles would score the night’s only remaining touchdown to win the game 21-17. Roby nearly gave up a game-winning touchdown in the final two minutes when he was beat deep by Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but Roby got bailed out when Valdes-Scantling dropped the would-be 51-yard touchdown catch in the end zone.

Denzel Ward makes history

No NFL defensive back in the last 25 years has made plays on the ball as consistently as Denzel Ward has in his first six seasons in the league.

With a pass breakup in the Cleveland Browns’ 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Ward became the first NFL player since at least 1999 (when passes defensed became an official stat) to record at least 10 passes defensed with two interceptions in all of his first six seasons.

Ward also made three tackles in the Browns’ victory over their division rivals, including one that brought back memories of his famous “BBQ” hit in Ohio State’s 2017 win over Maryland.

Austin Mack shines in Grey Cup

We typically focus on what former Ohio State players are doing in the NFL in Across The Shield, but we’re expanding our horizons this week to recognize a spectacular performance to cap off an exemplary season by former Ohio State wide receiver Austin Mack in the CFL.

Mack helped lead the Montreal Alouettes to a league championship in Sunday night’s Grey Cup as he caught six passes for a team-high 103 yards. Those six receptions included a pair of tremendous downfield grabs – one of the one-handed variety – and a 13-yard touchdown on a bubble screen that gave his team a fourth-quarter lead in a game it would ultimately win 28-24.

While our Pro Buck of the Week award typically honors Ohio State’s top NFL performer of the week, we’re making a special exception this week to recognize the performance by a former Buckeye that led directly to a professional football championship.

Pro Bucks of the Week
Week Player Stats
Week 1 Saints CB Marshon Lattimore 1 INT, 3 PBU, 2 tackles
Week 2 Texans QB C.J. Stroud 30-47 passing, 384 yards, 2 TD
Week 3 Saints WR Chris Olave 8 catches, 104 yards
Week 4 Broncos OLB Jonathon Cooper 5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 35-yard fumble return TD
Week 5 Bears QB Justin Fields 15-29 passing, 282 yards, 4 TD; 11 carries, 57 yards
Week 6 Bengals DE Sam Hubbard 7 tackles, 1 sack, 5 QB hits
Week 7 Dolphins LB Jerome Baker 11 tackles, 1 TFL, 22-yard interception return TD
Week 8 Broncos OLB Baron Browning 4 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 1 FF
Week 9 Texans QB C.J. Stroud 30-42 passing, 470 yards, 5 TD; 10 rushing yards
Week 10 Texans WR Noah Brown 7 catches, 172 yards
Week 11 Alouettes WR Austin Mack 6 catches, 103 yards, 1 TD in Grey Cup win

Mack’s championship-winning performance capped off an excellent debut season in the CFL in which he earned CFL All-Star honors after catching 78 passes for 1,154 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season.

Mack hasn’t played in an NFL regular-season game since 2020 with the New York Giants – he had stints with the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers in 2021 and 2022, but saw no game action – but his performance north of the border this year could give the NFL reason to take another look at the former Buckeye pass-catcher. 

Quick Hits

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba “Mossed” fellow Ohio State product Jordan Fuller as he made a grab over Fuller’s head in double coverage for a 32-yard reception in the Seattle Seahawks’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
  • Jeremy Ruckert caught three passes for 25 yards, both career-highs, in the New York Jets’ loss to the Buffalo Bills.
  • The Detroit Lions officially signed Jake McQuaide to their active roster to be their long snapper after initially elevating him from their practice squad in Week 10.
  • Joe Burrow, who started his college career at Ohio State before transferring to LSU, saw his fourth NFL season come to an early end as he tore a ligament in his right wrist in the Cincinnati Bengals’ Thursday night loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Statistics for every former Ohio State player from Week 11 and for the entire 2023 NFL season can be found in the table below compiled by Eleven Warriors researcher Matt Gutridge. (Note: The table only includes players who finished their college careers at Ohio State.)

Buckeyes Around the NFL
ELI APPLE CB DOLPHINS Did not play 31 tackles, 1 QB hit, 6 PD
JEROME BAKER LB DOLPHINS 7 tackles 58 tackles, 1.5 sacks (0 yards), 1 TFL, 4 QB hits, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD
VONN BELL S PANTHERS 7 tackles 44 tackles, 1 QB hit 1 INT, 2 PD
JOEY BOSA OLB CHARGERS Started at OLB 20 tackles, 6.5 sacks (59 yards), 6 TFL, 8 QB hits, 1 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR
NICK BOSA DE 49ERS 3 tackles, 1 sack (3.5 yards), 3 QB hits 27 tackles, 5.5 sacks (37.5 yards), 6 TFL, 24 QB hits, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR
NOAH BROWN WR TEXANS Inactive 21 catches, 439 yards, 1 TD
BARON BROWNING OLB BRONCOS 3 tackles, 1 sack (0 yards), 1 FF  11 tackles, 3 sacks (21 yards), 3 TFL, 4 QB hits, 1 PD, 2 FF
PARRIS CAMPBELL WR GIANTS Played at WR 19 catches, 106 yards; 8 KR, 191 yards
JONATHON COOPER OLB BRONCOS 5 tackles, 1 sack (11 yards), 2 TFL 46 tackles, 5.5 sacks (42.5 yards), 1 FF, 5 TFL, 9 QB hits, 1 PD, 2 FR, 1 TD
TAYLOR DECKER OT LIONS Started at LT 8 starts at LT
J.K. DOBBINS RB RAVENS Injured reserve (Achilles) 8 carries, 22 yards, 1 TD
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT RB PATRIOTS Bye 86 carries, 331 yards, 2 TD; 18 catches, 108 yards
LUKE FARRELL TE JAGUARS 2 catches, 21 yards 7 catches, 56 yards
JUSTIN FIELDS QB BEARS 16/23 passing, 169 yards, 1 TD; 18 carries, 104 yards 116/175 passing, 1,370 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT; 65 carries, 341 yards, 1 TD
JORDAN FULLER S RAMS 6 tackles 64 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD, 3 FF
JOHNATHAN HANKINS DT COWBOYS 1 tackle 18 tackles, 2 PD
MALIK HARRISON LB RAVENS 2 tackles 18 tackles, 1 QB hit
CAMERON HEYWARD DT STEELERS 5 tackles, 1 TFL 14 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 QB hit
RONNIE HICKMAN S BROWNS 4 tackles 4 tackles
MALIK HOOKER S COWBOYS 5 tackles 36 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 FF
SAM HUBBARD DE BENGALS Inactive 38 tackles, 4 sacks (24 yards), 4 TFL, 13 QB hits, 1 FR
JONAH JACKSON OG LIONS Inactive 6 starts at LG
PARIS JOHNSON JR. OL CARDINALS Started at RT 11 starts at RT
CAMERON JOHNSTON P TEXANS 2 punts, 47.0 average, 1 inside 20 26 punts, 46.0 average, 12 inside 20
DAWAND JONES OT BROWNS Played at OT 7 starts at RT, 9 games played
DRE'MONT JONES DE SEAHAWKS 1 tackle 23 tackles, 2.5 sacks (13 yards), 4 TFL, 9 QB hits
TYQUAN LEWIS DE COLTS Bye 14 tackles, 2 sacks (13 yards) 4 TFL, 7 QB hits, 2 PD
COREY LINSLEY C CHARGERS Non-football illness (heart) 3 starts at C
LIAM McCULLOUGH LS FALCONS Bye 1 tackle, 9 games played at LS
TERRY McLAURIN WR COMMANDERS 5 catches, 43 yards 56 receptions, 644 yards, 2 TD, 1 FR TD
JAKE McQUAIDE LS LIONS Played at LS 2 games played at LS
THAYER MUNFORD OT RAIDERS Started at RT 6 starts, 10 games played at OT
JOSH MYERS C PACKERS Started at C 10 games started at C
JEFF OKUDAH CB FALCONS Bye 28 tackles, 1 TFL, 4 PD
CHRIS OLAVE WR SAINTS Bye 59 catches, 657 yards, 3 TD
NICHOLAS PETIT-FRERE OT TITANS Injured reserve (shoulder) 2 starts at OT, 3 games played
ISAIAH PRINCE OT FALCONS Released 2 games played
BRADLEY ROBY CB EAGLES 5 tackles, 1 FF 7 tackles, 1 FF
JEREMY RUCKERT TE JETS 3 catches, 25 yards 8 catches, 68 yards
CURTIS SAMUEL WR COMMANDERS 1 catch, 5 yards 38 catches, 343 yards, 2 TD; 4 carries, 20 yards, 1 TD
TREY SERMON RB COLTS Bye 8 carries, 24 yards
KENDALL SHEFFIELD CB 49ERS Released 4 tackles, 1 TFL
TYREKE SMITH LB SEAHAWKS Practice squad 1 tackle
JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA WR SEAHAWKS 3 catches, 40 yards 36 catches, 365 yards, 2 TD
C.J. STROUD QB TEXANS 27/37 passing, 336 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT; 1 carry, -1 yard 223/355 passing, 2,962 yards, 17 TD, 5 INT; 23 carries, 85 yards, 2 TD
MICHAEL THOMAS WR SAINTS Bye 39 catches, 448 yards, 1 TD
NICK VANNETT TE CHARGERS Played at TE 1 start at TE, 3 games played
SHAUN WADE CB PATRIOTS Bye 16 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PD
DENZEL WARD CB BROWNS 3 tackles, 1 PD 29 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 10 PD, 1 FF
PETE WERNER LB SAINTS Bye 60 tackles, 0.5 sacks (4 yards), 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FR
GARRETT WILSON WR JETS 2 catches, 9 yards 57 catches, 651 yards, 2 TD; 1 carry, 6 yards; 0/1 passing
LUKE WYPLER C BROWNS Inactive 3 games played
CHASE YOUNG DE 49ERS 2 tackles, 1 sack (9 yards) 19 tackles, 6.5 sacks (45.5 yards), 7 TFL, 12 QB hits, 1 PD
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