Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Demetrious Cox, S, Michigan State (NCAA): Following its 39-38 loss to Nebraska on Nov. 7, the Michigan State defense allowed an average of 12.5 points in its last four games to secure a spot in college football’s national championship playoff. In Saturday’ 16-13 victory over previously-undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten title game, Cox made his defensive contribution with seven tackles and an interception in the end zone off a deflected pass that he literally snatched off a teammate’s back.
Rontez Miles, FS, Jets (NFL): So much was made about star CB Darrelle Revis having to miss Sunday’s Jets-Giants game and whether the Jets’ secondary could handle Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. They didn’t, as OBJ caught six balls for 149 yards and a touchdown, but did good enough against QB Eli Manning and the Giants’ other receivers to help the Jets to a 23-20 overtime victory. Miles’ interception on a fourth down in the fourth quarter in the red zone kept the Giants from scoring a potentially backbreaking TD and set up a key field goal for the Jets.
Morgan Burns, CB, Kansas State (NCAA): The Wildcats’ senior corner and kick returner had two tackles and one pass breakup against West Virginia on Saturday. He also made sure that it wouldn’t be his final college game by returning a fourth-quarter kickoff 97 yards for K-State’s go-ahead touchdown, and the Wildcats held on for a 24-23 victory that made them bowl-eligible at 6-6.
Earl Thomas, FS, Seahawks (NFL): The “Legion of Boom” bounced back from one of its worst performances last week against the Steelers to shut down the Vikings in Sunday’s 38-7 rout. Thomas had two tackles and an interception for a Seattle defense that held RB Adrian Peterson to 18 yards on the ground and QB Teddy Bridgewater to 118 yards in the air.
William Jackson III, CB, Houston (NCAA): Give credit to the Temple Owls for not being afraid to go after Jackson, a senior all-conference cornerback, in Saturday’s AAC championship game. And give credit to Jackson for responding to the challenge with five tackles and a school-record seven pass breakups. The Cougars’ 24-13 victory landed them a marquee matchup with Florida State in the Peach Bowl.
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL): Riddled with injuries and rolling out a new-look starting unit, Philly’s secondary was supposed to get torn apart by QB Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense. Instead, Eagles’ DBs made some of the biggest plays in Sunday’s 35-28 upset win. FS Malcolm Jenkins had a 99-yard pick-six; SS Chris Maragos blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown; CB Byron Maxwell had an interception; and SS Walter Thurmond had a team-high 10 tackles.