Richard Sherman, CB, Seahawks (NFL): All of the hype and anticipation for Dez Bryant’s return to the Cowboys after missing six weeks with a broken foot could’ve been put on hold for another week, because Sherman pretty much took Bryant out of Sunday’s game right after it started. Sherman was credited with four pass breakups on his way to allowing Bryant just two receptions for 12 yards. Seattle needed someone to cancel out Dallas’ top weapon, too, because their offense wasn’t exactly lighting it up in the 13-12 victory. Watch how Sherman shadowed Bryant in this NFL.com video.
Ishmael Adams, CB, UCLA (NCAA): The son of former NFL defensive back Stefon Adams is making a career out of lengthy (yet fast) returns. Last season, Ishmael had a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown and a 95-yard interception return TD in the same game against Arizona State. The year before, racked up 234 total kick return yards in a game against ASU. This past Saturday, the Sun Devils actually got a break as it was Colorado’s turn to eat the dust of Adams. The redshirt junior scored on a 96-yard interception return in the first half of UCLA’s 35-31 victory.
Shawn Williams, SS, Bengals (NFL): In danger of suffering its first loss of the season, Cincinnati trailed AFC North rival Pittsburgh by four points late in the fourth quarter on Sunday when Williams made the play of the day for Marvin Lewis’ squad. When QB Ben Roethlisberger tried to hit fullback Will Johnson with a pass along the sideline, Williams made the kind of aggressive break on the ball that defensive back coaches preserve on film for eternity and made a diving interception before (luckily? purposely?) landing inbounds. Williams’ pick set up the winning TD for the Bengals in an eventual 16-10 decision, keeping Cincy among the NFL’s undefeated.
Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan (NCAA): It makes sense that Michigan, alma mater of Heisman-winning do-everything DB Charles Woodson, would be the team with college football’s most versatile player on its roster. Peppers, a redshirt freshman, has been playing safety on defense for the Wolverines, running back on offense, and he’s returning kicks. In Saturday’s 29-26 win over Minnesota, Peppers scored a 6-yard rushing TD, had a 43-yard kickoff return and a 41-yard punt return, made three tackles and broke up three passes. He even lined up a few times at quarterback in the Wildcat formation.
Sean Smith, CB, Chiefs (NFL): As the TV announcers pointed out during Kansas City’s 45-10 rout of Detroit in London on Sunday, Smith is one of the few NFL cornerbacks who doesn’t look dwarfed trying to cover Lions star WR Calvin Johnson. Smith, listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, had five tackles and one interception — which he celebrated with a spot-on impersonation of the guy on YouTube who impersonated NBA eccentric J.R. Smith. He also helped KC’s secondary limit Johnson, listed at 6-5 and 237 pounds, to just five receptions for 85 yards. And most of that came after the game was no longer in doubt.
Corn Elder, CB, Miami (Fla.) (NCAA): For the third Saturday in a row, the most-replayed moment in college football was a wild special-teams play in which a defensive back scored a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock. First, it was Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson scoring on a botched punt to beat Michigan. Then it was Georgia Tech’s Lance Austin taking a blocked field goal to the house to upset Florida State. This weekend’s improbable play somehow topped both of those for overall craziness and controversy. After Duke scored the go-ahead touchdown with six seconds remaining, Miami — playing its first game under interim head coach Larry Scott and in the unfamiliar position of being an underdog to nationally-ranked Duke — would have to attempt a Cal-versus-Stanford “The band is on the field” all-or-nothing lateral-filled kickoff return. At first, the play appeared destined for the blooper reel instead of the highlight reel. Eight laterals later, Elder (a junior who also had six tackles and one pass breakup in the game) wound up with the ball and zig-zagged 91 yards for a touchdown. Flags were thrown during the return but later picked up. The play was later reviewed by the ACC and the officiating crew was suspended for multiple missed calls, but the Hurricanes’ 30-27 victory is going to stand.