NFL Playoffs: Former Vols DE Derek Barnett again delivers in big game

Former Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett came up huge in the NFL Playoffs to help the Philadelphia Eagles reach the Super Bowl.

If anybody in the national media ever wondered why Tennessee Vols fans always insisted that Derek Barnett would be better than Myles Garrett, look no further than his performance Sunday in the NFL Playoffs. Barnett once again came up big when it mattered most. And as a result, the Philadelphia Eagles are NFC Champions.

Barnett was the one to break the game open. As the Minnesota Vikings were driving to tie the game down 14-7 in the first half, the all-time Tennessee football career sacks leader came up with the game-changing play. He sacked Case Keenum and forced a fumble that the Eagles recovered. A touchdown on the ensuing drive is what broke the game open.

Despite seeing limited reps this year because he had to split time in the defensive line rotation, this play was the continuation of Barnett’s work all year. He has saved his biggest plays for the biggest moments.

Of his five regular season sacks as a rookie, four and a half came in a divisional game or against another team who made the NFL Playoffs. They were all in key games, and he did this as a rookie.

In college, Barnett was very similar. Of his 33 career sacks, which broke Reggie White’s all-time record in just three years, 29 came against SEC opponents. Meanwhile, 32 of them overall came against either an SEC opponent, a ranked opponent or a team in a bowl game.

And 11 of Barnett’s 33 sacks came against ranked SEC competition. In Tennessee football’s two biggest wins while he was there, against the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs in 2016, he had two sacks both games. Against Georgia, he had a strip sack that resulted in a touchdown.

This is why we always said Barnett was better than Garrett. Garrett would pad his sacks stats in meaningless moments against meaningless teams, usually non-conference Group of Five or FCS opponents. He did the same this year.

As the Cleveland Browns went 0-16, Garrett did have seven sacks. Only two came against a divisional opponent.

Long-term, as Barnett gets more reps in the rotation, he’ll prove that he was always better than Garrett. Heck, he just played a huge role getting his team to the Super Bowl because of his talents.

As the game slows down for him and he gets better at timing snap counts, watch out. The NFL Playoffs this year are just giving fans a taste of how great he can be. His future is amazing. And the best part is, Eagles fans will enjoy him saving all his best plays for the big moments.