With the Monday Night Football game being moved from Mexico City to LA, the Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Rams matchup was the premier game of week 11, and much like some of the African talent on display, it did not disappoint.
Upsets were few (though Oakland and Denver did get victories), and many patterns continued apace, including the Saints’ African contingent balling out again.
Player of the week
Samson Ebukam (Los Angeles Rams – Outside Linebacker #50)
The Nigeria-born outside linebacker for the Rams had his best game of the season, and an absolutely brilliant performance by any metric on Monday night.
The second year player had three tackles, one sack, two QB hits, a fumble recovery for a touchdown AND then a pick six in the Rams’ 54-51 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Ebukam also delivered consistent pressure on the Chiefs’ star QB Patrick Mahomes, and the pressure provided by Ebukam in the final minute of the game led to two interceptions being thrown by the youngster.
The fumble recovery and interception were the first of his career for Ebukam, and he became only the third player in Monday Night Football history with multiple defensive touchdowns in a game, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
He also became the first player since sacks became official in 1982 with a sack, interception, and multiple touchdowns in a single game, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
With the addition of Dante Fowler Jr, plus the return of 2018 5th round pick (and fellow Nigerian-American) Ogbonnia Okoronkwo from injury, Ebukam has responded positively to the challenge for defensive snaps, and keeps giving defensive coordinator Wade Phillips a reason to keep him on the field.
Chris Banjo (New Orleans Saints – Safety #31)
One of the three great African special teams aces in the league [Along with Johnson Bademosi of the Houston Texans and the injured Nat Berhe of the Pittsburgh Steelers], Banjo got an opportunity to play on defense during the fourth quarter of the Saints’ win over the Eagles.
The Nigerian-American took advantage of his opportunity to shine. With two interceptions of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, Banjo helped ice the win and showed how deep the talent is on the Saints defense.
Ezekiel Ansah (Detroit Lions – Defensive End # 94)
Ghanaian-American defensive end Ansah picked up his second sack in three games since his return from a week one shoulder injury. Ansah had two quarterback hits on Carolina QB Cam Newton as the pass rusher from Accra helped the Lions get a 20-19 win over the Panthers.
It will be difficult for Ansah to get up to the 12 sacks he recorded last season, but if he ends the season with 7 or 8 sacks and continues to display the ability to disrupt the pocket, then the off-season free agent market might be slightly more amenable to Ansah and his agent than it looked in week one.
Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints – Running Back #41)
The Liberian-American running back had a ho-hum game by his standards yet was still quite productive by normal people’s standards. Kamara ran the ball 13 times for 71 yards (backfield mate Mark Ingram got the bulk of carries) and caught one pass for 37 yards and a touchdown in the Saints’ 48-7 annihilation of the Eagles.
Players to watch in week 12
Nelson Agholor (Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver)
Agholor and the Eagles have had a rough couple of weeks, losing two in a row. Going up against the New York Giants in week 12, Agholor getting targets from Wentz, and finding ways to move the Eagles offense downfield and to the redzone, will go a long way towards helping the defending champions get back in the win column.
Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons Running back)
The Falcons are another team on a two game losing run and just 19 carries in two games for Tevin Coleman is a great formula for defeat. If the Falcons fail to be patient with the running game and don’t give the ball to the Liberian-American running back, then a loss to the Saints should be expected.
Chidobe Awuzie (Dallas Cowboys Cornerback)
Awuzie may not be playing at a Pro-Bowl level but the second year CB has displayed great awareness, technique and tackling. He has been unlucky to give up touchdown receptions on passes which receivers turned into sublime catches, despite his excellent coverage. If Awuzie is fortunate enough to turn some of the throws his way into interceptions, then the Cowboys defense will be better positioned to tee off on Washington QB Colt McCoy, who will be replacing injured starter Alex Smith on Thursday.