WATCH: Robbie Gould sends 49ers to NFC Championship Game

Watch former Penn State kicker Robbie Gould kick a game-winning field goal as time expires in Lambeau Field

Former Penn State kicker Robbie Gould is one game away from playing in the Super Bowl. The 15-year NFL veteran helped the San Francisco 49ers punch their ticket to the NFC Championship Game on Saturday night with a game-winning field goal from 45 yards to upset the No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field.

The sequence of events that led to Gould getting a chance for a game-winning field goal could not have been scripted. In a defensive battle highlighted by special teams plays, the 49ers tied the game at 10-10 with just under five minutes to play in the game when they blocked a Packers punt deep in the Green Bay end and made a short return for a touchdown. After the Green Bay offense got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff, the San Francisco defense forced a three-and-out aided by an illegal motion penalty on the Packers on first down and followed by a false start penalty on fourth down with the punt team on.

Then, with just four seconds remaining on the clock and San Francisco with the football at the Green Bay 28-yard line, Gould was set for one of the defining moments of his long career. And, as he typically has done in the postseason, Gould delivered.

Gould has still never missed a kick in postseason play. As noted by FOX before the game-winning field goal, Goul had connected on all 19 career postseason field goal attempts he lined up for. Fortunately for Gould, this was no jinx by the broadcast crew that provided the historical stat.

And, perhaps naturally, Gould’s success was celebrated by Twitter and Gould’s career began to be put in a broader perspective by some.

Gould and the Niners will face the winner of Sunday’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams.

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Micah Parsons named a candidate for NFL Rookie of the Year

Former Penn State LB Micah Parsons is a leading candidate for the NFL Rookie of the Year award

To the shock of absolutely nobody, Dallas Cowboys rookie and former Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is a candidate for the NFL’s rookie of the year. After an absolutely dominant rookie season anchoring the Cowboys defensive efforts, Parsons was officially named a candidate for the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award on Friday, but he may have some stiff competition for the award.

Parsons is one of six rookies up for this year’s honor, and he is the only defensive player in the running. Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals), Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers), Mac Jones (New England Patriots), Kyle Pitts (Atlanta Falcons), and Jaylen Waddle (Miami Dolphins) are all candidates for the award as well.

Chase has a strong case to be made for the award after catching 81 passes for 1,455 yards (fourth-most in the NFL) and 13 touchdowns (third-most in the NFL) in his rookie season with the AFC North champion Bengals. Jones helped lead the New England Patriots after throwing for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns. Harris rushed for 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns for the Steelers (former Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth also had seven touchdown receptions for the Steelers in his rookie season). Pitts was a 1,000-yard receiver for the Falcons but he had just one touchdown. Waddle also had a 1,000-yard season to lead the Dolphins, and he scored six touchdowns.

But Parsons absolutely has a strong case to be made for the award as well. Parsons was named an AP All-Pro and was the leading vote-getter at the linebacker position, appearing on 46 of 50 ballots from the AP voters. Parsons recorded 13.0 sacks in six games and forced three fumbles and proved to be among the best defensive players in the league. Some have even suggested Parsons has a strong case to be named the NFL’s defensive player of the year.

Fans can cast their vote for the NFL Rookie of the Year.

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Miles Sanders says he is excited to play in Eagles playoff game

Former Penn State RB Miles Sanders returns to the playoffs with a broken hand as Eagles face Bucs

The NFL playoff action gets underway this weekend, and former Penn State running back Miles Sanders says he is ready to get back on the field. The Eagles will be on the road this weekend to face the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And despite having a hand injury that will require surgery, Sanders says he will play through the pain this weekend.

Sanders took part in a Zoom medical call on Friday and confirmed his status to reporters. Asked if he was planning on playing this Sunday afternoon, Sanders replied affirmatively with a smile.

Sanders, who had a broken hand that caused him to miss the end of the regular season, was listed as a full participant in the Eagles’ Friday practice session. He does not appear on the injury list for this weekend’s game against Tom Brady and the Bucs.

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said there will be no limitations for Sanders in the game plan, although we will have to wait and see just how much the Eagle sput in the hands of the former Nittany Lion. Sanders has been a big part of the success of the Eagles’ ground game this season, which has been tied to the better second-half performance of the team after some tough spots early on in the season.

“Miles is obviously a phenomenal player, a phenomenal talent, even better teammate, even better person, even better worker, which is why he’s got the talent and the skill that he does,” Sirianni said. “Miles has been really good with the ball this year.”

Sanders and the Eagles face the Bucs on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET in the NFC Super Wild Card weekend.

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Micah Parsons leads all linebackers in AP All-Pro voting

Micah Parsons was the only rookie to be named an AP All-Pro, and nobody had more votes at LB

It is rare that a rookie gets named an All-Pro by the Associated Press. It is perhaps even more rare to do so as a rookie. But that is exactly what former Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons has done. The favorite to be named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year for the 2021 season, Parsons was named to the 2021 NFL All-Pro team by the Associated Press on Friday.

Parsons, coming off his first regular season with the Dallas Cowboys and preparing for his NFL postseason debut this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers, received more votes from the AP All-Pro voters than any other linebacker in the entire NFL, easily making him the top choice for All-Pro. Parsons appeared on 46 of the 50 ballots, edging Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts for the top spot at linebacker. It didn’t take long for Parsons to grow up in the NFL. After a shaky debut at times in the season opener, Parsons quickly asserted himself as one of the top defensive players in the NFL.

Parsons is one of 14 players to be named an AP All-Pro for the first time this season. Parsons is the only rookie on the entire 2021 AP All-Pro team. And considering the overwhelming total of votes Parsons received to be named All-Pro, there is a strong chance Parsons could add the title of Defensive Player of the Year to his list of accolades, and not just the rookie award.

“I think it’s an extraordinary honor,” Parsons said to the AP. “It speaks to the work and the position the Cowboys put me in. I think it’s just a true blessing. It just makes you want to go harder.”

“I think when you achieve things early, you’ve got to learn how to sustain it. People always say when you get there it gets easier,” Parsons said. “But I think when you get there, it gets harder. Once you get it, you’ve got it. But it’s hard to sustain it than it is just to get there. I’ve got to just keep working and keep getting better and find a way to beat this season next year, which is the harder part.”

As noted by Pro Football Focus, Parsons is joining some true elite company. Parsons is the fourth linebacker to be named an AP All-Pro in his rookie season. He joins Lawrence Taylor, Patrick Willis, and Darius Leonard.

PFF also listed Parsons as an All-Pro for the 2021 season, although PFF listed Parsons as a Flex-D All-Pro, giving the nod at linebacker to Leonard and De’Vonfdre Campbell of Green Bay. PFF also named Parsons its NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Parsons played in 16 of 17 games for the Cowboys, who won the NFC East, this season. He recorded 13 sacks and 64 solo tackles with three forced fumbles. And to think he’s just getting started.

Yikes!

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Will former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien return to the NFL?

Is former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien returning to the NFL?

It seems being the offensive coordinator of Alabama has a good track record for coordinators returning to the role of head coach. And if things go well for former Penn State head coach Bil O’Brien, he could soon be back on the sidelines calling the shots of his own team. O’Brien, now the offensive coordinator for the Crismon Tide and preparing for Monday night’s national championship game against Georgia, is being rumored to be a potential candidate for the head coaching vacancy with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jaguars are waves by removing former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer toward the end of a dreadful season in Jacksonville before his first season as a head coach in the NFL could see the finish line. O’Brien, who has previous NFL experience both as a successful offensive coordinator and a few years under his belt as a head coach in the same division as the Jaguars, will reportedly be among those interviewed for the Jaguars job next week, after Alabama’s national championship game against the Bulldogs.

News of O’Brien being a potential candidate for the job has been met with many negative reactions among Jaguars fans. This is largely based on how O’Brien left the NFL, with the Houston Texans in a messy situation with O’Brien arguably being given too much power with the franchise and failing to win a playoff game despite multiple trips to the postseason.

But the track record of Alabama coordinators under head coach Nick Saban does tend to suggest O’Brien’s days as a head coach are not extinct. It may be argued O’Brien’s best head coaching job was actually with Penn State in the face of extreme adversity for the program. But O’Brien has had some bumps in the road since leaving Penn State to chase his dream of coaching in the NFL.

It could also still be an interesting NFL coaching carousel to watch with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh beginning to have his name revived in the NFL rumor mill. Harbaugh’s name has most closely been connected to the rumors about the Chicago Bears job, one which Ohio State head coach Ryan Day previously had to put an end to weeks ago. We don’t know if either Big Ten East rival will be making any changes at head coach, but we will most certainly be keeping a close eye on things just in case.

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Every Penn State player on an NFL playoff roster in 2022

Here is every former Penn State player on an NFL playoff team’s roster in 2022

The NFL playoffs are just about set and Penn State will once again be well-represented across the league with hopes of seeing another Nittany Lion or two lay claim to a Super Bowl ring at the end of the season. And in case you forgot, a Penn State player has played in every Super Bowl (except for five since 1967)…

As the NFL playoff picture comes into view, here is a look at what Penn State players are gearing up for the postseason with Super Bowl 56 on the horizon.

The only confirmed playoff teams without a Penn State player on the roster are the Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, and New England Patriots. There are still a couple of spots in the AFC and NFC playoff picture to lock down, so this will be updated once the final playoff teams are confirmed.

Miles Sanders posts emotional message on Twitter following hand injury

What former Penn State RB Miles Sanders said on Twitter after being sidelined with injury

Former Penn State running back Miles Sanders has been thriving in the Philadelphia Eagles offense in recent weeks as the Eagles have moved into a solid playoff position coming down the final stretch of the NFL’s regular season. But Sanders was forced to leave Sunday’s blowout victory over the New York Giants with what was later determined to be a broken hand.

How much time Sanders will have to miss is undetermined, but the Eagles did not place Sanders on the injured reserve list with a hope of being able to bring him back at some point this season, likely in the playoffs. But Sanders has been rule out of the next game for the Birds, this coming Sunday against the Washignton Football Team.

Following the news of Sanders’ injured hand and inactive status for this coming weekend, Sanders took to Twitter to share his reaction and emotions over the situation.

Sanders has had to be patient at times this season under first-year head coach Nick Siriani. With a new coaching staff in place led by a rookie head coach, Sanders has had some moments of frustration this season as the Eagles have had to figure out their offensive identity. But that identity has been growing more and more reliant on the running game, which has included Sanders as a key ingredient.

Sanders rushed for 120 yards in a Week 13 game at the New York Jets and followed that up with 131 yards against Washington in a rescheduled Tuesday night game last week in Philadelphia. Sanders rushed seven times for 45 yards against the New York Giants on Sunday before leaving the game with his hand injury.

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How will Chris Godwin’s ACL injury impact his free agency?

Former Penn State receiver Chris Godwin suffered a torn ACL in the NFL’s Week 15

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Former Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin didn’t just see his team lose on Sunday night in the NFL’s Sunday Night Football game. He also saw his season come to an end. Godwin suffered a torn ACL in Tampa Bay’s loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night, bringing a premature end to his season at potentially the worst possible time of his career.

Initially, it was reported Godwin had suffered a sprained MCL, which was still expected to end his season as a result of the severity of the injury. But any chance of returning for a potential Bucs run back to the Super Bowl was eliminated with the follow-up report that Godwin’s injury was more severe than initially feared. The injury being downgraded to a torn ACL means that injured reserve was removed as a possibility and Godwin’s season was effectively brought to an end due to the recovery time needed for an ACL injury compared to a sprained MCL.

There is never a good time for this type of injury, naturally, but the timing of this all is even more unfortunate for Godwin. Godwin is a free agent at the end of this season. After the Bucs won the Super Bowl last season, Godwin had hoped to be able to work out a long-term deal with Tampa Bay in the offseason. Instead, Godwin was placed on the franchise tag for the 2021 season.

When we last reacted to Godwin’s contract situation in the offseason, I made note of the risk that comes with not being able to land a long-term deal. Now, unfortunately, this situation has arisen for Godwin;

Of course, the risk of holding off talks on a long-term deal is Godwin could be hampered by an injury that may cause the Bucs to think differently about his future with the organization. Just ask former Nittany Lion DaeSean Hamilton how that can go.

If you need a reminder of what happened to DaeSean Hamilton, he was waived by the Denver Broncos in May after Hamilton suffered a torn ACL in the offseason. But Godwin may still have a better financial outlook than his former teammate, Hamilton because there is more proven on the field that Godwin can rely on.

A torn ACL can typically keep a player off the field for about a year. Former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley just went through this over the past couple of years after suffering a torn ACL early in the 2020 season and returning in time for the start of the 2021 season.

We’ll keep tabs on Godwin’s status moving into an interesting offseason.

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Penn State LB Ellis Brooks declares for NFL draft, will skip Outback Bowl

Penn State leading tackler Ellis Brooks to skip Outback Bowl to focus on NFL draft

Penn State has another starting linebacker spot to address for the Outback Bowl. Ellis Brooks has announced he is declaring for the 2022 NFL draft and opting out of the Outback Bowl against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

“After having multiple conversations with my family members and coaches, I have decided to forego the bowl game to focus on getting healthy, as it’s now time to chase my dream of playing at the highest level and officially declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft,” Brooks said in a statement shared on his Twitter account on Monday evening.

“I can only hope that you received some of the same joy watching me in the Blue & White that I got from playing in front of you,” Brooks said in a message directed to Penn State fans.

Brooks ended the regular season with a team-leading 100 tackles, including 53 solo tackles. Brooks also led the Nittany Lions with 60 tackles during the abbreviated 2020 season. Brooks emerged as Penn State’s top linebacker in 2020 following the early departure of Micah Parsons, and he became one of the most consistent linebackers on the roster in the past two seasons.

The loss of Brooks creates a bit of a concern for James Franklin in preparing for the Outback Bowl. Penn State is now without its top two tacklers with Brooks and Brandon Smith each having opted out to focus on their NFL future. Curtis Jacobs is the only starter left standing at the linebacker positions, so defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter will have to dig into the depth a bit.

Charlie Katshir appeared to be the most logical replacement for Smith following his decision to opt out of the bowl season. Jesse Luketa could take a few more snaps at a linebacker position, or Penn State could move a player like Jonathan Sutherland into the middle of the field and hope it all works out.

Otherwise, Penn State may have to throw some inexperienced young options into some key roles.

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WATCH: Former Penn State LB Jason Cabinda scores first career NFL touchdown

WATCH: Former Penn State LB Jason Cabinda scores first career NFL touchdown

The Detroit Lions pulled a major stunner in the NFL on Sunday with a blowout victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Lions, winners of two games now, were dominant all game long against the 10-4 Cardinals, and they got a scoring contribution from a former Penn State Nittany Lion.

Jason Cabinda, who played linebacker at Penn State, scored his first touchdown in the NFL in the Lions’ blowout victory. But he did so on offense, as the Lions have him on the depth chart at the running back position. Cabinda caught a short pass from Jared Goff on a 1st-and-Goal midway through the third quarter, and he was able to stretch across the end zone for a touchdown.

Cabinda is listed as one of the fourth running backs on the Lions’ depth chart. The Lions were without starting running back D’Andre Swift, but who would have anticipated Cabinda would get this kind of opportunity for his first career touchdown? Entering the game, Cabinda had three rushing attempts this season and one reception for a total of 25 all-purpose yards.

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