Benin’s Paulson Adebo pulls off career-best NFL performance in Saints’ win

There were several contenders for NFL Africa MVP this week, but nobody could top Paulson Adebo in his career standout game as he led the New Orleans Saints to victory over the Chicago Bears.

Elsewhere, Justin MadubuikeNate Landman, Gus Edwards, David OnyemataArnold Ebiketie and Dare Ogunbowale were among the many players to star in what was arguably the best week of this NFL season yet for Africa.

African Player of the week: Paulson Adebo (New Orleans Saints)

Adebo has been steadily improving week upon week this season, his third in the league after being drafted as the 76th overall pick in 2021. However, the cornerback, whose mother immigrated to the United States from Benin before he was born, had his best game yet in the Saints’ 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears, making a decisive impact with two interceptions, three passes defended, seven tackles, a forced fumble and a recovery.

It was the Bears who drew first blood through a Cole Kmet touchdown, but an Adebo interception in the first quarter with the Saints trailing 7-0 helped swing the game in the hosts’ favour at the Superdome. By the end of the first quarter, they had leveled at 7-7.

The game remained tight throughout and the teams went into half-time with the scores still tied at 14-14. Early in the third quarter, Adebo made another telling contribution to the cause as he forced the ball out of D. J. Moore’s hands and scooped it up.

The Saints took a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, and having helped them to stay in touch when they were losing and then level later in the game, Adebo was once again influential as the Saints sought to preserve the lead.

He intercepted a pass intended for Tyler Scott with just over five minutes remaining on the clock to stifle the Bears’ momentum and ensure that the Saints retained control of the game to clinch their fifth win of the season.

African Moment of the week: Dare Ogunbowale (Houston Texans)

The Houston Texans had to resort to desperate measures in their 39-37 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but thanks to the efforts of Dare Ogunbowale, who was born in the USA to parents who immigrated from Nigeria, they were able to get over the line.

After placekicker Ka’imi Fairbairn suffered a quad injury, the Texans turned to Ogunbowale, a running back, as a replacement kicker at halftime.

Undoubtedly, it was a bold move, but the gamble paid dividends as Ogunbowale stepped up with the scores level and 8:48 left on the clock in the fourth quarter. He effortlessly converted a 29-yard field goal to put Houston 33-30 ahead and send them on course to victory.

Quarterback CJ Stroud, who threw 470 yards for five touchdowns – will likely be thanking his running back all week. Had it not been for Ogunbowale, then he would have set the single-game rookie passing record only for it to be in vain in a Texans defeat.

As it is, they have gone 4-4 for the season. Like so many Nigerians before him, Ogunbowale played soccer as a child, and it paid off at the vital moment in the most unexpected way.

Honorable Mentions:

Nigerian-American duo Adetomiwa Adebawore and Dayo Odeyingbo both got sacks for the Indianapolis Colts in their 27-13 win over the Carolina Panthers, while another Nigerian-American, Segun Olubi, managed an interception. Their Colts teammate, Guinea-born Liberian Kwity Paye managed half a sack in the same game.

There was a moment of great personal significance for Boye Mafe, who is of Nigerian heritage, as he recorded his sixth consecutive game with a sack for the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately for him, the Baltimore Ravens ultimately came out tops 37-3, with two touchdowns from Liberia-born Gus Edwards, who made it an astonishing six from three games.

On the defensive side, Nigerian-American duo Odafe Oweh and Justin Madubuike each recorded sacks for the Ravens.

Another Nigerian-American, David Njoku, got a receiving touchdown for the Cleveland Browns in their 27-0 crushing of the Arizona Cardinals.

Africa-born player watch:

Apart from Edwards’ heroics and Paye’s solid performance, there was plenty to celebrate from African-born players among the Atlanta Falcons contingent in particular.

Nate Landman (Zimbabwe), Arnold Ebiketie (Cameroon) and David Onyemata (Nigeria) all picked up sacks against the Minnesota Vikings, albeit in a heartbreaking 31-28 defeat.

That same game saw South Africa’s Greg Joseph pick up a decisive 11 points and go 3/3 from field goals for the winning side. Joseph went fifth on the Vikings’ all-time FG list with 72. Directly ahead of him in fourth place is fellow South African Gary Anderson with 109.

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