Some of the New England Patriots defensive starters were so unexpected on Sunday night, NBC didn't have video of them introducing their alma mater for the network's player introductions. Instead, NBC had to run a conspicuous still photograph with no accompanying audio.
It's as if Jeff Tarpinian and Sterling Moore are so mysterious, they're like a combination of Sasquatch and the international jewel thief who has only been photographed once in his life in a cafe on the Riviera. The real story is less exciting: Both players are relatively new to the team and neither were expected to start until late Sunday night.
Tarpinian, a fourth-year player from Iowa, was signed from the practice squad in late September and had played mainly on special teams until his surprise start on Sunday.
Moore signed as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders but was cut from the team's practice squad in late September. He joined the Pats practice squad later that month, was elevated to the 53-man roster on Oct. 5 and gained his first start Sunday night when Patrick Chung was unable to play with a foot injury. The rookie from Southern Methodist was effective at the corner, though he may not have endeared himself to teammate Devin McCourty, whose shoulder he accidentally separated while making a joint tackle on a Jets receiver.
"I probably owe him a dinner or something for that," Moore said.
NBC's production value is so high for "Sunday Night Football," it was surprising the network didn't have a huge catalog of every player in the league speaking their alma mater, even guys on lowly teams like the Dolphins or Rams. Heck, I think a camera even stopped me once while I was at a game, affording me the opportunity to say "THE Wake Forest University" in a robotic staccato with a far-off gaze.