The story of the day on Sunday in the NFL was late-game interceptions that decided a few close games. FOX Sports spoke to the players who made those plays and shared their stories.
Danny Trevathan was already securing the football in his mind before he even got to it. That’s what goes through a player’s head when he’s looking to make amends for an embarrassing moment on national television.
Trevathan was the Denver Broncos linebacker who dropped the ball at the 1-yard line during the Thursday night regular-season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He was on his way into the end zone but forgot to bring the ball with him as he celebrated. It didn’t matter in the final outcome of the game as the Broncos were already rolling at the time, but Trevathan badly wanted to make amends for that play.
So there it was — redemption in the form of a football from Tony Romo’s right hand intended for Gavin Escobar. Twenty-five such passes from Romo had been completed Sunday on his way to a Dallas Cowboys franchise-record 506 yards, yet this was to be another Romo moment — a play over which Romo supporters and haters would once again clash.
But that’s only half of the incredible storyline on this incredible play to decide this amazing Week 5 game.
"I was trying to get to that ball. I’m thinking about what I’m going to do when I get there," Trevathan told FOX Sports from a joyous locker room at AT&T Stadium. "I just wanted to hold on to that ball.
"So this time, I tucked it under my shirt and walked off."
He kept it there all the way to the sideline. It had taken him four weeks to make good on his vow to give the nation another moment by which to remember him — a smart, athletic play rather than a decision that ended with comparisons to Leon Lett and DeSean Jackson.
"Oh yeah, I told them, ‘Y’all stick with me. I’m gonna keep working,’" Trevathan said. "We have some of the best players and coaches in the league. We’re going to keep grinding no matter what happens."
Trevathan credited those coaches for working with him on the exact route Escobar ran on that play — a short cross from the left slot, which is a staple of the Cowboys’ offense. Trevathan had seen that route a few times before in the game and knew it would be coming once again. Just not so quickly.
Trevathan tried to get a jam on Escobar and didn’t quite get as much of him as he wanted. Escobar seemed to have a step to the right, and Romo wanted to put the ball a little farther in front of Escobar.
Except he didn’t. And a diving Trevathan, who thought he’d suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice last week only to learn he’d dodged major damage, made Romo pay. On a day when Romo was brilliant at times — no more so than when he dodged three defenders during a nine-second scramble-and-throw to Jason Witten in the first half — the Broncos’ defenders kept reminding one another all of those plays wouldn’t matter if they made the one that mattered.
Trevathan did just that.
"It’s been a crazy season; God works in mysterious ways," Trevathan said. "I’m blessed to be out here."
And blessed to have created a new Danny Trevathan moment, courtesy of another Tony Romo moment.
"They can remember it until next week," Trevathan said, "when I try to get another one."
ADAM JONES MAKES IT RAIN
No, not like that.
The cornerback formerly known as Pacman has worked to curb his off-field issues, which included "making it rain" before a fight at a strip club in 2007, and has made progress. He hasn’t been perfect, as he was arrested in the spring for what he claims was self-defense against a woman and was recently cited for disorderly conduct when he made a comment to a police officer who had pulled over the car driven by his wife.
But Jones generated some good vibes on the field on Sunday when he sealed the Cincinnati Bengals’ 13-6 victory over the New England Patriots with an interception of Tom Brady near the goal line.
That play came minutes after it began pouring — at Jones’ request.
"I was praying for rain," Jones said via phone a few hours after his interception. "When it started, I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s starting. Please keep coming like this. Any little thing can help.’"
Jones did the big things to help the Bengals hold off the Patriots’ Brady, whose streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass ended at 52. New England was also held to its lowest point total in a game since the Dolphins shut them out on Dec. 10, 2006.
On a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 6:36 to play and the Bengals leading by 10, Jones broke up a fade from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman. Jones said, in his opinion, that was the biggest play he made on Sunday.
But the interception sealed it.
"(Aaron Dobson) got a wide release and I knew if I stayed inside I could adjust to the ball," Jones said. "I thought it would be a little bit higher than it was, which is why I jumped so high. It was a good play. I had two wonderful plays today to help us out. The one in the end zone was a big play, too. Just keeping my head down, no matter the situation, through the adversity."
Once considered a selfish player, Jones repeatedly complimented his teammates, especially cornerback Terence Newman, who made a huge play as well when he broke up a deep ball from Brady to Dobson one play after Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard fumbled with just over three minutes to play.
"We knew they were going to take a shot. They always take a shot around the 50-yard line and we both said, ‘Here comes the shot,’" Jones said of his conversation with Newman. "I got a go (route) too on that play. T-Newman made a hell of a play right there with getting the ball out.
"It was a team win. There was not one guy that made the game different. It was a bunch of guys that made the plays. There are no ‘I’ guys in our locker room. We all love each other, we play hard together and at the end of the day you just keep playing the way we play defense and everything is going to work out."
"I APPRECIATE THAT, VICTOR"
With 10:12 to play, and trailing by eight points, a scrambling New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw off-balance for Victor Cruz over the middle. Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin laid out, got his hands on the ball, lost control of it and then got it back as he fell to the ground. The Eagles would turn that interception into an insurance touchdown and a share of first place in the NFC East.
"It was the craziest play I’ve ever made," Boykin said by phone before the Eagles headed home down the New Jersey Turnpike. "Victor, he did a lot of inside cuts today. I was the man underneath and as soon as he cut, I knew the ball was coming, so I had to get my head around quick. I saw it floating and everything just slowed down. I tried to stick my hand out there initially to break it up, but I ended up getting a pretty good grip on it with one hand so I grabbed it to establish possession and good things happen, man."
In this case, good things happened for Boykin when Cruz grabbed control of the ball as it was headed to the ground. That allowed Boykin to grab it again.
"Yeah, I felt him still trying to catch it even though I had a hand on it and that helped me re-grip it and get my hands back under it," Boykin said, adding with a laugh: "So I appreciate that, Victor."
Cruz had only five catches for 48 yards and no touchdowns, thanks in large part to Boykin’s coverage. And if it seems obvious to the viewers how frustrated the 0-5 Giants are right now, trust us, it’s obvious to opposing defenses as well.
Boykin said the Eagles could sense the Giants’ offense losing patience early before Philly "gave them new life" with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns that gave the Giants a brief lead.
Boykin and defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, who pressured Manning on the interception, helped take that life away.
"We were talking and going back and forth, me and Victor, but that’s just football," Boykin said. "I think he was frustrated he wasn’t getting the football, but that’s a tribute to our scheme and Coach putting together a great scheme for us to contain him."
BUTLER SEALS IT FOR INDY
Much like Jones, Darius Butler’s biggest play on Sunday might not have been his interception to seal the victory.
Two plays prior to his pick, the Indianapolis Colts cornerback made an outstanding play to lay out and knock away a pass from the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice near the sideline. Butler had one hand on Rice’s hip, though he didn’t pull his jersey or yank his hip around. Thus, there was no flag for interference.
On the interception, which came on a fourth-and-15 from the Seahawks’ 37 with 1:31 to play, Wilson’s brief scramble was contained within the tackle box and not out to the edges. Wilson, who was a nightmare for Colts pass rushers all day because of his scrambling ability, also was hit hard by Indy linebacker Jerrell Freeman after he threw.
Count the Colts as another team less impressed with Russell Wilson, the pocket passer, than Russell Wilson, improviser.
"If we can contain him and make him stay in the pocket and make throws, we like our chances a lot better than if he’s scrambling around and giving receivers time to get open," Butler told FOX Sports by phone from Lucas Oil Stadium. "That’s what they did up front and I benefitted from it."
In the battle of Wilson (15-for-31 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) vs. Andrew Luck (16-for-29, 229 yards and two touchdowns), Butler is sticking with the No. 1 overall pick from a year ago.
"I’ll take our guy over anybody else," he said. "He’s calm, he’s poised under pressure. We know we always have a chance when our offense takes the ball."
FIVE QUICK TAKES
1) With all of this movement on the quarterback market recently, perhaps the biggest move was the one that wasn’t made. The Eagles received calls on Nick Foles late in the preseason but told each team they weren’t interested in moving him, sources told FOX Sports. The Kansas City Chiefs and Andy Reid also talked to the Eagles shortly after the team retained Michael Vick this past winter and were told the same thing.
The Cleveland Browns were among the teams that called late in the summer, a source said. With Michael Vick limping heavily after leaving Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury that could keep him out for a game, if not more, the Eagles are surely glad Foles is around to step right in. Foles threw two perfect passes for touchdowns late in the win on Sunday and likely will start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ stingy pass defense. Tampa is where Foles led a comeback victory last season — one of the few highlights for Reid in his final months with the Eagles.
2) Remember the NFLPA’s investigation into whether there was a violation of protocol in handling Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s concussion against the Denver Broncos late last month? Sources have told FOX Sports the union did discover a bit of a breakdown in communication.
Details are scant for now, but sources said the conversation Raiders coach Dennis Allen said he had with Pryor didn’t actually occur until after third down (Pryor was hit by linebacker Wesley Woodyard on second down). However, the breakdown in communication after the concussion observer in the press box called down to the sideline wasn’t egregious enough to warrant disciplinary action against the team. Look for the NFL and the union to work together to soon remind teams about the importance of communicating with the doctors and concussion experts on the sidelines when a possible concussion occurs.
3) The NFL used pink penalty flags for the first time last season after an 11-year-old New Jersey boy wrote a letter to Roger Goodell to suggest them as a way to add to the league’s breast-cancer awareness campaign during October. That’s a good story and a nice gesture, but there was plenty of confusion for refs, coaches, players and broadcasters yesterday when a player’s pink towel was on the ground. There’s enough pink on the field and the players. I wonder if the league will go back to yellow flags before the month is over.
4) Chuck Pagano called Trent Richardson a "rolling ball of knives" when the team acquired him. Want to know what that looks like? Go back and watch his 10-yard run on a third-and-5 with 4:30 to play. He fought through arm tackles and somehow maintained his balance while picking up the first down. That run extended the drive and pushed the Colts into field-goal range. They added three points, which forced the Seahawks to get a touchdown to win instead of a field goal to tie. Butler’s interception made sure that didn’t happen.
5) Alarming numbers for Brady and the Patriots: 56.6 percent completion rate, 6.2 yards per attempt and 1.4 touchdowns per game. Those are all career lows for a full season. One has to figure things will turn around eventually for one of the best quarterbacks in the game; perhaps it’s an indication that tight end Rob Gronkowski is even better and more valuable than we all realized. Gronkowski might be back this coming weekend to work the middle of the field — that would be a huge relief for Brady & Co.
10 EVEN QUICKER TAKES
Justin Blackmon, Daryl Washington and Bruce Irvin: All three back from suspension. All three made plays Sunday. Washington was another member of the late-game interception club, joining those mentioned above.
Josh Freeman: When has a guy who was inactive and unsigned for two regular-season weeks hijacked the news cycle like he did? Never, right?
Patrick Peterson: Dear NFL quarterbacks, it’s time to stop throwing his way.
Saints: The lack of a running game is going to catch up to them eventually, right? Right? Right?
Clay Matthews: Even if it’s determined he can play with some kind of cast or club on his hand to protect his fractured thumb, that’s a big blow to a guy who needs those hands to pass rush.
Randall Cobb: With the Seahawks’ Percy Harvin recovering from hip surgery, Cobb is the NFL’s most versatile weapon right now. He looked just like a running back on his 67-yard run on a designed draw from the backfield.
Dolphins: Somebody’s gotta help Ryan Tannehill finish off the comeback. Dropped passes and no protection on the edges finished off Miami against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.
Ron Rivera: The NFL Network reported the Panthers are already scouting replacements for him. If Carolina (1-3) can’t win three of their next four games (which is doable against the Vikings, Rams, Buccaneers and Falcons) new GM Dave Gettleman will need that list of possible new coaches because the stretch run will be very tough.
Terrelle Pryor: NFL players aren’t supposed to be tweeting or checking their phones on the sidelines, so it had to be a coincidence the Oakland Raiders’ quarterback got off to a hot start as soon as news broke that Freeman was joining the Vikings, right?
Blows to the head of the quarterback: One very slight one against Brady was flagged, yet more egregious hits on Luck and Eli Manning didn’t draw flags. The NFL might have to better define "forcible blow."