Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
1. A.J. Bouye, CB, Texans (NFL) — Bouye’s impressive individual stat line was part of a collective team shutdown of the Raiders’ passing game in Saturday’s AFC wild-card playoff game.
Houston’s top-ranked defense compelled Oakland rookie QB Connor Cook to post a paltry QB Rating of 5.5, while Pro Bowl WR Amari Cooper had just two catches for 10 yards and No. 2 receiver Michael Crabtree’s stellar season ended with a 2-reception, 33-yard thud.
Bouye had one interception in the Texans’ 27-14 victory to go with three pass breakups and two tackles.
2. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson (NCAA) — Numbers-wise, there wasn’t a clear MVP of the Clemson defense in their 35-31 win over Alabama in Monday’s national championship game. Senior LB Ben Boulware was voted the Defensive Player of the Game after posting six tackles (two for losses) and one pass breakup, but that seemed like more of a career achievement award for the unquestioned emotional leader of the Tigers.
Tankersley’s stat line didn’t pop off the page, either.
He had five tackles and one pass breakup. Nothing special. Tankersley was, however, the man primarily responsible for covering Alabama sophomore WR Calvin Ridley, the Crimson Tide’s most dangerous aerial weapon who is considered the next great ‘Bama receiver following in the footsteps of Amari Cooper and Julio Jones. Tankersley helped hold Ridley to five catches for 36 yards in the national title game.
It was a satisfying finish to a senior season that saw Tankersley voted first team All-America by USA Today and first team All-ACC while recording 59 tackles, 10 pass breakups and four interceptions. He is projected to be a first or second-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
3. Seattle Seahawks (NFL) — As Richard Sherman put it so aptly, “This felt like old times.”
He was talking about the Seahawks’ 26-6 win over the Lions in Saturday’s NFC wild-card playoff game. Earl Thomas is recovering from a broken leg suffered earlier this season, and the cornerback spot opposite Sherman has been kind of a revolving door in recent years, but the “Legion of Boom” secondary looked as good as ever against Detroit.
Sherman had five tackles. Strong safety Kam Chancellor had seven tackles. Steven Terrell, Thomas’ backup at free safety who initially struggled after inheriting the starting job, had three tackles. DeShawn Shead, the other starting CB, broke up three passes. And the Lions’ offense never got inside Seattle’s 33-yard line.
4. Damarious Randall, CB, Packers (NFL) — Green Bay’s 38-13 win over the Giants in Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game was well in the bag by the time Randall intercepted New York QB Eli Manning in the end zone.
Most players would have taken a knee. Randall took the ball out of the end zone and almost got himself a pick-six, scampering 78 yards before being brought down. Randall finished the game with the interception, two pass breakups and five tackles, and helped hold star WR Odell Beckham Jr. to four catches for 28 yards.
5. Mike Mitchell, FS, Steelers (NFL) — The hard-hitting Steelers didn’t just end the Dolphins’ season with a 30-12 victory in their AFC wild-card playoff game on Sunday. The Steelers almost ended QB Matt Moore’s ability to remember things.
Pittsburgh’s linebackers and D-line spent entirely too much time in Miami’s backfield, and LB Bud Dupree’s vicious hit on Moore in the second quarter probably made “BountyGate” scapegoat Gregg Williams smile from wherever he was watching.
But give the Steelers’ secondary credit for forcing Moore to hold the ball long enough to get sacked. Mitchell chipped in with eight tackles and a strip-sack of his own, forcing a fumble that the Steelers recovered in the third quarter.
6. Bubba Bolden, DB, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) (High School) — The rules of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl state that a player cannot rush the kicker. But no flag was thrown late in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s showdown when Bolden of the West team leaped over the East linemen and blocked a field goal attempt, then corralled the loose ball and ran it back for a touchdown. The East still won the game, 27-17. Bolden is committed to USC.