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Vikings' Stefon Diggs, Other Former Terps Shine During NFL's Divisional Round

January 15, 2018
The biggest catch of former University of Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs' career was also perhaps the best moment in Minnesota Vikings history. Diggs sent the Vikings to the NFC championship game with a 61-yard catch-and-run as time expired against the New Orleans Saints Jan. 14. 

Minnesota was down, 24-23, with the ball at its own 39-yard line with no timeouts remaining. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum looked to his right for Diggs, who jumped high in the air to haul the ball in at the Saints' 34-yard line. New Orleans safety Marcus Williams whiffed in trying to bring Diggs to the ground, instead taking out his own teammate, cornerback Ken Crawley. With no Saints between Diggs and the end zone, Diggs scored with no time remaining for a 29-24 victory.

The touchdown set off pandemonium in Minnesota. 

 It was the first time a game-winning touchdown had ever been scored as time expired in regulation of a playoff game. 

Diggs caught the ball with five seconds remaining in regulation. Had Williams tackled Diggs inbounds, the Vikings wouldn't have had enough time to get to the line of scrimmage and kill the clock, thus ending the game. Instead, Minnesota will travel to Philadelphia for the NFC championship game, which will kick off at 6:40 p.m. Jan. 21.

Diggs finished the regular season with 64 catches, 849 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games. The 2015 fifth-round pick has 2,472 yards on 200 catches during the first three years of his career. He's eligible for an extension with the Vikings this offseason.

Diggs fought injuries for much of his time as a Terp from 2012-2014 but was productive despite largely ineffective quarterback play. He caught 150 passes for 2,227 yards over 28 games -- an average of 5.4 catches and 80 yards a game -- along with plenty of highlights like this one against West Virginia:

He also hauled in 14 receiving touchdowns.

One of Diggs' best performances came at North Carolina in November 2012, when he caught eight balls for 82 yards with linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback, threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt Furstenberg on a trick play and returned a kick 99 yards for a touchdown.

Diggs, a Gaithersburg, Md., native, committed to the hometown Terps over Florida, Ohio State and Auburn. Diggs was a major score for then-head coach Randy Edsall and then-offensive coordinator Mike Locksley; the Terps had struggled to keep top local talent around. Edsall chimed in on Twitter after Diggs' walk-off touchdown. 

Diggs' brother, Trevon, who returns kicks and punts for Alabama, won a national championship earlier this month with the Crimson Tide. Diggs is now just two wins away from joining his brother in the championship ranks.

Diggs will face Torrey Smith, another former Terps wide receiver, when the Vikings face the Eagles. Smith had three catches for 39 yards during Philadelphia's win against the Atlanta Falcons Jan. 13. One of Smith's catches was made in unique fashion and helped set up a key field goal at the end of the first half, which brought the Eagles' deficit at the time to one point.

Another former Terp who played well Jan. 14 was Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. With the Jaguars up 21-7 late in the first half, Ngakoue stripped Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger near midfield. The fumble was scooped up by Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith and returned for a 28-7 lead.

Here's a breakdown of how Ngakoue's strip sack happened, starting with the coverage on the back end that forced Roethlisberger to hold onto the ball. Ngakoue had five hurries on the day, according to Pro Football Focus.
Ngakoue, a third-round pick by the Jaguars in 2016, played in all 32 regular-season games his first two seasons, racking up 20 sacks and 10 forced fumbles. He had 12 sacks and six forced fumbles this season. Ngakoue's production is a major reason Jacksonville finished second in the league with 55 sacks this season. The team earned the "Sacksonville" moniker for its pass rushing ability.

Ngakoue, a native of Bowie, Md., played for Maryland from 2013-2015. He had 21 sacks throughout his three seasons and 13 in 2015 before deciding to leave early for the NFL.