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Northwestern in the NFL, Week 13: Despite bye weeks, Pro ‘Cats rack up wins

Godwin Igwebuike should never have to pay for another meal in Detroit, some are saying.

Minnesota Vikings vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers on their bye weeks, numerous Northwestern alumni in the NFL did not suit up this week. Nonetheless, several former Wildcats experienced season-highs, from first victories to standout outings. Here’s how each Pro ‘Cat performed during all the action of Week 13.

Godwin Igwebuike: Detroit Lions, RB/KR

With star running back D’Andre Swift out, Igwebuike saw a surge in offensive snaps – he was on the field for 39 percent of Detroit’s plays on offense, easily his highest figure this year. On the surface, the converted RB didn’t post monster stats – he tallied just two carries for eight yards, plus one reception for 13 yards – but proved instrumental in the Lions’ first win in 15 games.

With just under six minutes left in the second quarter, Igwebuike rushed for six yards on a 1st & 5 to give Detroit a new set of downs. Detroit ended up converting a field goal on this drive.

Moreover, Igwebuike was especially clutch during the Lions’ final drive, in which the team in Honolulu Blue (yes, it’s called that) won the game. On 3rd & 10 at the Detroit 36, the Northwestern alum hauled in a short pass from Jared Goff around four yards downfield before evading several Vikings defenders, picking up the first and getting out of bounds with 1:05 remaining in the matchup.

On special teams, too, Igwebuike played 70 percent of snaps, had a 30-yard kick return to set up Detroit’s first touchdown of the game and even made a tackle.

With Swift potentially sidelined again next week against the Broncos, Igwebuike is likely to see continued snaps on offense. Regardless, the Pro ‘Cat deserves a round of applause for contributing to Detroit’s inaugural victory of the year.

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Slater proliferated his excellent play on Sunday, helping the Chargers dethrone the Cincinnati Bengals 38-22 in a battle between two potential playoff squads.

The rookie offensive tackle played 100 percent of snaps for Brandon Staley’s team yet again – in fact, Slater is still yet to miss a snap all year. Matched up against Bengals edge rushers Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, Slater allowed one sack and three pressures; on the day, Justin Herbert was sacked four times and hit on 10 instances.

As is becoming a weekly occurrence, Slater was among the highest-graded offensive players for the Chargers – his 74.0 Pro Football Focus grade slotting in at third – as well as one of the premier tackles in the entire league. The former Wildcat is the sixth-highest-graded OT in 2021, per PFF.

Slater seems to be a surefire bet for the Pro Bowl and should garner All-Pro consideration. The all-world rookie and the 7-5 Chargers battle the Giants in Week 14.

Justin Jackson: Los Angeles Chargers, RB

Like Igwebuike, Jackson suited up for a season-high share of offensive snaps this week, with the Wildcats’ all-time leading rusher playing 25 percent of downs alongside Slater.

Jackson totaled 15 rushing yards – his most since Week 8 – on six carries and, mixing in two catches for six yards for the victorious Bolts. Additionally, the RB was involved with 50 percent of special teams plays.

With fellow back Larry Rountree III seeing no offensive snaps on Sunday, Jackson seems to have solidified himself as LA’s backup RB behind Austin Ekeler.

Joe Gaziano: Los Angeles Chargers, DL

Gaziano saw the field for 39% of Los Angeles’ defensive snaps and 10% of its special teams plays, accumulating one tackle in the process. The defensive lineman was given a 41.6 defensive PFF grade but did have a 69.2 grade for tackling.

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

Believe it or not, Skowronek was one of the Rams’ starting wide receivers — he opened the game alongside Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson. Skowronek notched one reception for 35 yards – a single-game career high – while playing 24 percent of the Rams’ offensive snaps.

The former NU receiver also was seen during 54 percent of Los Angeles’ special teams plays and has emerged as a core special teamer for Sean McVay.

‘Cats that didn’t play this week: Greg Newsome II, Cleveland Browns; Anthony Walker, Jr., Cleveland Browns; Blake Hance, Cleveland Browns; Ifeadi Odenigbo, Cleveland Browns; Dean Lowry, Green Bay Packers; Tyler Lancaster, Green Bay Packers; Trevor Siemian, New Orleans Saints; Earnest Brown IV, Los Angeles Rams; Ibraheim Campbell, Indianapolis Colts; Joe Jones, Tennessee Titans; John Raine, Atlanta Falcons