Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Josh Norman, CB, Washington (NFL): The marketing, advertising and overall hype leading up to Sunday’s head-to-head matchup between Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. and Washington CB Josh Norman reminded me of the now-infamous 1994 duel between Falcons WR Andre Rison and 49ers CB Deion Sanders.
That meeting was about Deion returning to Atlanta to face his former team and his just-as-flashy former teammate, Rison. That meeting started a sort of sibling rivalry of one-upmanship that turned into a (funny more than fierce) fight between the two stars.
This meeting between Beckham and Norman was about a blood rivalry that started last year, when arguably the two best players in the NFL at their respective positions faced each other and ended up trading cheap shots back and forth. And with Norman leaving Carolina for Washington in free agency, he and OBJ are now NFC East foes who will play each other twice a year.
On Sunday, Beckham caught seven passes for 121 yards. He didn’t score a touchdown. According to NFL Network, Norman covered Beckham on 28 pass plays: Beckham was targeted 10 times on those plays and caught six balls for 107 yards. Norman finished with six tackles, and Washington won the game, 29-27. Some said OBJ won the individual battle; some say Norman won; some called it a draw. We’re all looking forward to the rematch.
Armani Watts, FS, Texas A&M (NCAA): The Aggies were tied with Arkansas late in the third quarter on Saturday and needed a defensive stand. On fourth-and-goal from the A&M 1-yard line, Razorbacks WR Keon Hatcher got the ball on an end-around, but Watts tracked him down and brought him down for a five-yard loss. The Aggies scored on their next drive and went on to a 45-24 victory. Watts, a junior, finished the game with a team-high nine tackles (2.5 tackles for loss), a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
Harrison Smith, FS, Vikings (NFL): A surprising 22-10 win over the Panthers on Sunday has the Vikings off to an even more surprising 3-0 start. Smith’s contribution in snapping Carolina’s 14-game home win streak was to simply display why he is the NFL’s highest-paid safety. He had seven tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery, and led a secondary that held Carolina’s star WR Kelvin Benjamin without a catch all day.
Leo Musso, FS, Wisconsin (NCAA): Musso’s fumble recovery and 66-yard return for a touchdown gave the Badgers a two-TD lead over Michigan State early in the second half of Saturday’s 30-6 victory. The senior starter and three-time Academic All-Big Ten pick also had five tackles.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, Bills (NFL): The Buffalo secondary got lit up last week by Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for 374 yards and a touchdown through the air. On Sunday, the Bills didn’t allow the Cardinals a passing TD and picked off QB Carson Palmer on each of the Arizona’s last four possessions to preserve a 33-18 victory. Gilmore had two of those interceptions, including one at the goal line.
Marcus Peters, CB, Chiefs (NFL): As good as Fitzpatrick was against the Bills last week, he was that bad against the Chiefs this week. Actually, he was worse than that. The Chiefs intercepted Fitzpatrick six times in Sunday’s 24-3 rout, with Peters collecting two of those INTs.
The NFL’s reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year picked off two passes in a game for the second straight week. (That has to be some kind of record, right?) Peters also shadowed star Jets WR Brandon Marshall for much of the game and limited him to three catches for 27 yards and no touchdowns.