Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan (NCAA): Lewis’ diving, one-handed, backhanded interception against Wisconsin wasn’t just one of the best catches you’ll see from any college football player (offense or defense) this season, it was also a clutch play that helped clinch the 4th-ranked Wolverines’ 14-7 win over the 8th-ranked Badgers on Saturday.
Wisconsin had fourth down inside their own 10-yard line with about 2:20 to go when WR George Rushing appeared to have Lewis beat. But the senior All-American cornerback leaped, hung in the air like Zach LaVine, and snatched QB Alex Hornibrook’s pass with one hand.
“We see him make a lot of plays, but that was on another level,” Michigan QB Wilton Speight said after the game. “I think he jumped and floated for 5 yards and somehow caught it with one hand. That’s a guy that’s going to be playing on Sunday for a long time. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Robert Blanton, FS, Bills (NFL): I’m usually not one for that “sending a message” and “getting in their heads” narrative, especially when we’re dealing with pros. Not that it’s never legit; but more often than not it’s overhyped. But I really do think it meant something on Sunday when Blanton shoved Patriots QB Jacoby Brissett and nearly sparked a pre-game brawl between the two teams.
New England was supposed to struggle in their month without Tom Brady, but before Sunday hadn’t been shown that anybody in the AFC East is capable of standing up and fighting them for the division. Blanton may have drawn more attention before the game than during the game — he had two tackles — but he nonetheless played a key role in Buffalo’s 16-0 victory. It was the first time the Patriots had been shut out at home since 1993.
Marcus Edmond, CB, Clemson (NCAA): The most-anticipated college football game of the season (so far) delivered on its potential as 5th-ranked Clemson beat 3rd-ranked Louisville 42-36 on Saturday in an instant classic.
The Cardinals were facing 4th-and-12 from Clemson’s 14-yard line with 40 seconds to go when QB Lamar Jackson completed a short pass to WR James Quick. He sped toward the first-down marker but Edmond knocked him out of bounds just short of his destination, allowing Clemson to take over. Edmond, a junior, finished the game with 12 tackles.
Robert Alford, CB, Falcons (NFL): There actually was some defense being played in Atlanta’s 48-33 win over the Panthers on Sunday, and Alford was one of the standouts on that side of the ball during the high-scoring affair otherwise known as The Julio Jones Show.
After Cam Newton left the game with a possible concussion, Alford wiped out any hopes of a late Carolina comeback by intercepting backup QB Derek Anderson and returning it 30 yards for a touchdown. On the Panthers’ next drive, Alford picked off Anderson again just to rub it in.
Devon Earl, S, South Alabama (NCAA): The finishing touch on the unranked Jaguars’ 42-24 upset win over 19th-ranked San Diego State on Saturday was Earl’s fumble recovery and 80-yard return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Earl, a senior who plays the Rover position, added five tackles and one tackle for loss.
Aqib Talib, CB, Broncos (NFL): The marquee “How Ya Like Me Now” story line of Week 4 was Saints QB Drew Brees returning to San Diego for the first time since he played for the Chargers in 2005. Brees threw for two touchdowns and the Saints won with a fourth-quarter comeback.
Meanwhile, in the revenge-game undercard was Talib, whose Broncos hosted the Buccaneers on Sunday. Tampa Bay drafted Talib with a first-round pick in 2008, but traded him four years later after deciding the cornerback’s talent wasn’t worth the off-field drama.
Talib has (mostly) cleaned up his act since then, and in Denver he’s signed a big long-term contract and won a Super Bowl title. On Sunday, Talib got two interceptions against the Bucs, each setting up a touchdown for the Broncos in their 27-7 victory.