Nelson key to Detroit’s rushing success, Kittle dominates on Sunday Night Football in NFL Week 6

Matt Nelson, a defensive tackle in his time as a Hawkeye, filled in at right tackle for the Lions on Sunday.



Detroit Lions offensive lineman Matt Nelson (67) stretches during their joint training camp practice with the New England Patriots at their team headquarters in Allen Park, on Tuesday, August 6, 2019.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

In his time as a Hawkeye football player, Matt Nelson’s job was to attack quarterbacks and running backs. Now, in the NFL, he is tasked with protecting them.

A mainstay on Iowa’s defensive line from 2015-18, Nelson was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Detroit Lions following his career in the Black and Gold. As if adjusting to professional football wasn’t enough, the Lions moved the 6-foot-8, 313-pounder to a new position — offensive tackle.

In Detroit’s victory Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team’s starting right tackle left the game in the first half because of dehydration. Nelson entered the game and, for the first time in his professional career, played more than a handful of snaps.

Between his time spent at right tackle and the instances where Detroit’s formations moved him over to the left side of the offensive line as an extra blocker, Nelson played 46 offensive snaps on Sunday. He only played three in the Lions’ previous game.

The Lions ran for a season-high 180 yards in their 34-16 victory, despite personnel changes on the offensive line throughout the game.

“I don’t know if I’ve been in a game where we’ve played all eight offensive linemen, so that was a little bit unique,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said postgame. “But I thought that was great of those guys just being prepared. So, great lesson for us. I think our guys do a phenomenal job of this every single week of just being ready to go. You never know when your number’s going to be called and when it gets called, you’ve got to go out there and perform really well, which I thought they did.”

Nelson, a practice squad player last season as a rookie, did allow two hits on the quarterback, but didn’t give up a sack.

T.J. Hockenson caught a touchdown for the Lions midway through the third quarter to extend their lead, but he wasn’t the only former Hawkeye tight end to score in Week 6.

Kittle goes off on Sunday Night Football

Another week, another dominant performance from George Kittle.

RELATED: UI athletics department reports COVID-19 testing update

The threat Kittle poses to opposing defenses was evident in the San Francisco 49ers’ victory on Sunday Night Football over the Los Angeles Rams.

Up 7-0 in the early stages of the fourth quarter, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan left his offense on the field on fourth-and-2. The Rams blitzed, but the 49ers picked it up and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed a pass 10 yards downfield to Kittle over the middle, who then ran away from the cornerback diving at him and galloped into the end zone for a 44-yard score.

Kittle’s night went beyond that play. The All-Pro caught seven passes for 109 yards and a score in San Francisco’s 24-16 victory over Los Angeles.

Ojemudia continues to impress as rookie

So far this season, cornerback Michael Ojemudia is showing the Denver Broncos that he was worth a third-round draft choice. In his latest standout performance as a rookie, Ojemudia tallied seven tackles and forced two fumbles in Denver’s victory over the New England Patriots.

The former Hawkeye posted an 88.6 game grade, per Pro Football Focus, against New England, the best game grade of any rookie cornerback this season.

Welch promoted to active roster, Ferentz heads to COVID-19 list

Former Iowa linebacker Kristian Welch was elevated to the Baltimore Ravens’ active roster ahead of the team’s contest against the Philadelphia Eagle on Sunday. The rookie played the first snaps of his professional career and recorded a tackle in Baltimore’s 30-28 victory.

In a different roster move in New England, former Hawkeye offensive lineman James Ferentz, son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list by the Patriots on Oct. 16. This means Ferentz either tested positive for COVID-19 or was in close contact with someone who did. Ferentz played with Iowa from 2008-2012 and is in his third season with the Patriots.