Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama (NCAA): After the Crimson Tide came back to tie Monday’s national championship game against Clemson at 24-all in the fourth quarter, coach Nick Saban called for a surprise onside kick. Humphrey, a redshirt freshman corner and springtime track star, recovered the kick. Two plays later, TE O.J. Howard’s 51-yard TD catch gave ‘Bama a lead they would never lose on its way to a 45-40 victory. Humphrey finished the game with five tackles and two pass breakups.
Sean Smith, CB, Chiefs (NFL): The ineptitude of QB Brian Hoyer and the Texans’ offense was a popular story line from the Chiefs’ 30-0 rout in Saturday’s AFC wild-card playoff game. More credit should have gone to Kansas City’s defense for making Houston look bad. Smith was the most impressive of KC’s DBs, tying for the team lead with six tackles, breaking up two passes and getting one of the Chiefs’ four interceptions.
Ross Cockrell, CB, Steelers (NFL): Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones wouldn’t have been able to send the sports world into a dizzying rush of bloviation if Cockrell hadn’t recovered a late fourth-quarter fumble by Bengals RB Jeremy Hill to set up the Steelers’ game-winning drive in Saturday’s AFC wild-card game.
Kam Chancellor, SS, Seahawks (NFL): Over the span of 11 minutes in the fourth quarter, Chancellor went from being the defensive MVP of Sunday’s Seahawks-Vikings NFC wild-card game, to the guy who was going to cost Seattle the win, and then back to the defensive MVP. Bravely rocking no sleeves in minus-degree weather, Chancellor stripped RB Adrian Peterson and caused a fumble that led to the Seahawks’ go-ahead field goal. But then on back-to-back plays on the Vikings’ last drive, Chancellor was flagged for pass interference and allowed TE Kyle Rudolph a 24-yard catch into the red zone. Chancellor only avoided being the goat when Minnesota’s Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal and gave Seattle a 10-9 victory.
Morgan Burnett, SS, Packers (NFL): Last season, Burnett led all NFL defensive backs with 129 tackles. This season, he missed five games with injuries and recorded only 68. On Sunday, Burnett played his best game of the 2015 campaign by recording a team-high 13 tackles in Green Bay’s 35-18 victory over Washington in their NFC wild-card game.
Eddie Jackson, SS, Alabama (NCAA): Clemson QB Deshaun Watson was almost flawless in Monday’s national championship game. He lit up Alabama’s vaunted defense for 73 rushing yards, 405 passing yards and four touchdowns, and guided a Tigers’ offense that put 40 points on the board. One of Watson’s rare mistakes was capitalized on by Jackson, the Crimson Tide’s junior strong safety who made the game’s only interception.