Hawaii’s Alualu, Buckner, Sanchez head to 2021 NFL Playoffs

Hawaii’s Alualu, Buckner, Sanchez head to 2021 NFL Playoffs
Hawaii in the 2021 NFL Playoffs (Source: Twitter/@Steelers @Colts)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The NFL playoffs are here — After navigating through 256 games without a cancellation, only 14 teams remain, with three players with ties to Hawaii trying to help their franchises get to the Super Bowl.

Going into the final week of the season, Saint Louis alumni Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins would have secured their ticket to the postseason with a win over the Bills, but Buffalo pulled no punches, showing why they are the AFC East Champions, defeating the Fins 56-26.

With the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns both getting wins — securing their playoff spots — Tua and company needed the Indianapolis Colts to lose for Miami to get in, but Punahou’s Deforest Buckner and the Indianapolis Colts had other plans.

The Colts would beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 28-14 getting Indy the final AFC playoff spot — Buckner would log four tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection.

Also making it into the big dance is former University of Hawaii specialist Rigoberto Sanchez, who punted four times on Sunday for over 100 yards for the Shoe.

The only other player with Hawaii ties to make the playoffs this year is Saint Louis’ Tyson Alualu, who has been a force for the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive front — Alualu had three tackles and a pass deflection in the Black and Gold’s loss to the Browns.

Alualu and Pittsburgh were in a different situation than the Colts because the Steelers already secured the number three seed in the playoffs with a 12-4 regular season record.

The former Crusader and the Steelers are set for a rematch with Cleveland in the Wild Card round of the playoffs this Sunday at 3:15 p.m. Hawaii time on CBS.

The Colts on the other hand, square off with the team that took out Tua and the Dolphins — Colts versus Bills set for Saturday at 8:05 a.m. Hawaii time on CBS.

For the remaining players that did not make the playoffs, their seasons end in week 17 — here’s how the rest of the active players with ties to Hawaii did in the season finale.

There were three players on the Miami Dolphins roster with ties to Hawaii, Saint Louis’ Tua Tagovailoa, Kamehameha’s Kamu Gruiger-Hill and UH alumni Marcus Kemp.

Tagovailoa struggled on Saturday against the Bills, while Gruiger-Hill was ruled out of the game due a non-COVID-19 related illness and Kemp did not record any stats.

Punahou Alumni Kaimi Fairbairn notched four field goals for the Houston Texans, in their loss to the Tennessee Titans — going into the off season Houston is in search of a new Head Coach and General Manager.

Kahuku’s Alohi Gilman made his first start at strong safety for the Los Angeles Chargers, logging three tackles to help the Bolts beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 38-21 — LA finished the season with a 7-9 record, while letting go of head coach Anthony Lynn.

Saint Louis’ Marcus Mariota served as the back up quarterback for the Las Vegas Raiders in their 32-31 victory over the Denver Broncos, but did not see the field on Sunday, While Leleihua’s Netani Muti got in the game at right guard for the Broncos.

Lahainaluna’s Hercules Mata’afa recorded a sack for the Minnesota Vikings in their 37-35 loss to the Detroit Lions, while UH alumni Jahlani tavai was on the other sideline, racking up 12 tackles on Sunday for Detroit — The Lions are also on the look for a new head coach.

Saint Louis’ Nate Herbig started at right guard for the Philadelphia Eagles, in their 20-14 loss to the Washington Football team — punching Washington’s ticket to the playoffs.

Kahuku’s Bradlee Anae was inactive for the Dallas Cowboys loss to the New York Giants.

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