Give Cardinal O’Hara High School a piece of the Houston Texans’ second straight AFC South championship.
Springfield-born quarterback Tom Savage stepped up in the second half of his first NFL start to spark the Texans to a 12-10 victory over the Bengals Saturday.
Savage had the kind of first half that got the previous starter benched. He was sacked three times and completed just two of seven pass attempts for 13 yards against the Bengals. With a bit more creativity in play calls, Savage was 16-for-22 with 166 yards passing in the second half.
Savage got the nod over Brock Osweiler, the $72 million addition in free agency, with a big second half lifting the Texans to a 21-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars the previous week.
When Savage met the media Saturday, he indicated a chunk of the craziness he dealt with in a football career with stops at Rutgers, Arizona and Pitt helped him focus under the insane pressure of the playoff-clinching win over the Bengals.
“I think that journey made me who I am today,” Savage said. “Obviously I’ve been through the ringer a little bit not knowing where I’m going to go to college next week or next year and all that stuff. But ultimately it’s a team game and those guys really did a great job of rallying around me, making some plays. Not once in that game did I think that we were out of it or offensively we weren’t going to make it. I was pumped to get back out there each drive. I’m happy we could move the ball a little bit but ultimately we’ve got to put some more points on the board.”
Savage put together a solid career at Cardinal O’Hara, completing 190 of 426 attempts for 2,547 yards with 20 touchdowns, according to his bio.
Savage threw for 1,355 yards and 10 TDs as a senior, a lot of those passes to Corey Brown, now with the Carolina Panthers. The group, coached by the late Dan Alego, went 7-3.
After stops at Rutgers and Arizona, Savage (6-4, 228) transferred to Pitt where he blossomed into a fourth-round draft pick of the Texans in 2014.
Savage was the seventh quarterback selected in that draft, the cast ahead of him composed of Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Thomas Logan. Less than two months after the draft, Algeo, a big fan, passed away at age 49 from a heart issue.
Savage has come a long way since his days with the Lions. Beyond football, he and his wife Catie, who he met at Arizona, are expecting their first child, a girl, in January.
While Savage wasn’t an All-Delco at O’Hara and though he struggled to find the right situation in college, he’s fast become the most essential commodity in Houston — a finisher. The second half against the Bengals was the latest proof.
“You know I think it was just taking a deep breath, realizing what we have on defense, what they’re doing for us,” Savage said. “I mean, all week it’s just protecting the ball, and let’s find a way to win. That’s what we did, and the guys really rallied around again and made some huge plays for me.”
The Texans (9-6) are one win over Tennessee from double-digit victories.
Or if you prefer, one more deep breath by Savage.
Doug Pederson’s obsession with fourth down abated in the last Eagles game.
Pederson was 0-for-1 on fourth down against the Giants, a Ryan Mathews run from the one-yard line losing a yard. That makes him 1-for-5 on fourth down against the Giants this year.
The Eagles have converted 13 of 26 fourth downs this year, ranking first in the NFL in attempts (through Saturday’s games), tied for first in conversions but 15th in success rate.
The Browns are 13-for-18 (72.2 percent) on fourth down.
Considering the skills of kicker Caleb Sturgis, Pederson has left at least nine points on the field because of his fourth down fixations.
“That’s a lot during the course of the season,” Pederson said. “At the same time, we’ve kind of put ourselves in that position where we had to do it. I’m hoping in the future we do better on first, second and third down where we’re not putting ourselves in a lot of makeable fourth downs. But at the same time, if it benefits our team and we can stay aggressive with it and it’s smart and it’s a good decision, then I will continue to do that and go for those fourth downs.”
The Eagles (6-9) have converted just one of their last four fourth downs.
Fractured fibulas for Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, two of the premier young quarterbacks in the league, brought back memories of Donovan McNabb cracking his against the Cardinals at Veterans Stadium in 2002.
McNabb not only continued playing but threw four touchdown passes. But he was never the same guy in the pocket the rest of his career, although he had his best year statistically in 2004.
The improvisational skills that gave the Eagles a chance to win in his starts faded after the broken leg.
Hopefully that’s not the case with Carr or Mariota, whose mobility makes them extra tough to defend.
Penn State grad Matt McGloin gets the ball with Raiders, Matt Cassel with the Titans.
The Eagles had nothing to do with the Vikings’ plane that skidded off the runway in Appleton, trapping the team for a while.
While the Vikings insist it had nothing to do with their loss to the Packers, every little bit helps the Eagles, who acquired the first-round pick of the Vikings for Sam Bradford.
The Vikings pick is positioned as the 14th or 15th overall in the draft, yet no worse than 17th. Forget about the conditional third-rounder the Eagles could have received from the Vikings in 2018. It’s a fourth-round choice.
Meanwhile the first-round pick the Eagles owe the Browns will be ninth, 10th or 11th.
Bradford and the Vikings are just the sixth NFL team to fail to make the playoffs after starting 5-0 since 1990.
“This year has been crazy,” Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn told reporters. “I have never seen anything like it.”
To contact Bob Grotz, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow hm on Twitter @BobGrotz