And sometimes it's that opponent who makes the play instead.
In the Buccaneers' 31-20 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks found himself in such a situation on at least two occasions, matched up with Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper. It was Cooper who made the big plays, and their isolation on the field only intensified the spotlight on Banks. In the third quarter, Cooper fought off coverage from Banks at the goal line to haul in a 47-yard touchdown pass; in the fourth quarter, Cooper took a short pass near the left sideline and managed to get around an attempted tackle by Banks to break free for a 44-yard gain. The Eagles scored what was essentially the game-clinching touchdown on the next play.
Revis also carries the reputation as the NFL's best cornerback of the last half-decade, but even he has been on the wrong end of a few similar plays. He was able to offer counsel to his young teammate afterward, making sure the inevitable tough times wouldn't hurt Banks' confidence.
“Well he is responsible, but at the same time the only thing I can tell him is I went back to when I was a rookie and made a couple of mistakes when I was a rookie and told him you’re going to have bumps in the road," said Revis. "It’s a learning experience; he’s going to get better and he’s going to improve, so that’s the only thing I gave him – to make sure his spirits always stay high.”
The Buccaneers traded for Revis, the former New York Jet, in April, five days before they used a second-round draft pick on Mississippi State's Banks. Ever since, Banks has eagerly soaked up knowledge and advice from his new mentor, and he's taking Revis' most recent words to heart.
“I’ve just got to live and learn," said Banks. "I'm playing this game, I’m a rookie, I’m out there flying around, having fun making plays. I made two mistakes that cost our team some big yards and seven points, but I’m just out there having fun and it’s a big learning experience. If I don’t take anything from those games there’s no use of me being out there. Every game I’m out there I make a mistake, I learn from it. That was one of those things where I hate that it happened, but I’m kind of glad it did happen. It’s something I can learn from, it’s something I can work on and get better at.”
“You’re out there and you’re exposed and it’s glaring," said Sheridan. "But John’s done an excellent job. [He missed a tackle and] it’s out the gate. Then the one that got thrown deep, the one big shot there. But he’s made that play and he’ll make it again. It’s just so glaring, but really, he’s played solid and had a solid game the other day, except for those two are just so out there for everybody to see and that’s the nature of the position.”
Banks' teammates understand the nature of playing cornerback in the NFL, and they also know that no bad play on defense is the fault of just one player. Cooper's touchdown might never have happened if a pass-rusher had gotten to quarterback Nick Foles a bit quicker, for instance. Banks has not felt any blame thrown in his direction since Sunday's loss.
“My teammates, they’re always supportive," he said. "That’s one thing about this team, I came from a great team in Mississippi State, but the family environment here it’s like totally different, I’m so comfortable being around these guys. I enjoy coming into work and working with these guys. All these older guys, Mike [Adams] and Revis, they knew I was kind of down about it and they both just kept talking me up and they’ve been helping me out along the way and it’s been fun.”
* After just two games, it's clear that the Buccaneers have plans for Jeff Demps, the Olympic sprinter and all-around weapon, in their offense. Unfortunately, those plans are now on hold.
On Thursday, Demps had surgery to repair a groin injury that he suffered on Sunday against the Eagles. Head Coach Greg Schiano said he was not yet sure how much time Demps would miss, and the team did not immediately place him on a reserve list.
Against Arizona in Week Four – Demps' first NFL game – the Bucs threw the ball to him once (for eight yards), handed off to him once (for 14 yards) and sent him back for three kickoff returns (for 69 yards). After developing his role during the bye week, the coaches put him on the field for a higher percentage of snaps, using him as a decoy on several occasions so his presence on the field wouldn't be a dead giveaway. Demps had two catches for 13 yards, suffering his injury on the second one.
Whether or not Demps ends up on injured reserve, his surgery on Thursday obviously means he'll be out for some time. It seems clear that the Bucs are determined to make use of his skills, whenever he returns.
* The Buccaneers changed Demps designation to "out" on Thursday's injury report, just as they did with guard
There was little change to Atlanta's injury report on Thursday. Linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle), one of five Falcons who did not practice on Wednesday, returned on Thursday in a limited fashion. That means that running back Steven Jackson (thigh) and wide receiver Roddy White (hamstring/ankle) were sidelined once again.
Below are the full injury reports for both teams on Thursday.
|Player ||Injury ||Practice Status |
|CB ||Knee ||Full Participation |
|DE ||Toe ||Limited Participation |
|RB Jeff Demps ||Groin ||Out |
|G Davin Joseph ||Knee ||Full Participation |
|G Carl Nicks ||Foot ||Out |
|WR ||Hamstring ||Limited Participation |
|C ||Groin ||Full Participation |
|Player ||Injury ||Practice Status |
|T Sam Baker ||Knee ||Did Not Participate |
|TE Chase Coffman ||Knee ||Did Not Participate |
|LB Akeem Dent ||Ankle ||Limited Participation |
|RB Steven Jackson ||Hamstring ||Did Not Participate |
|RB Jason Snelling ||Concussion ||Full Participation |
|WR Roddy White ||Ham./Ankle ||Did Not Participate |
* Followers of our day-after-game "Stats Shots" feature will know that we're a bit obsessed with one very weird trend that has been developing in 2013: Every Buccaneer game is a turnover-neutral affair.
For five straight outings, the Buccaneers have had neither an advantage nor a disadvantage in the turnover column. Before 2013, the team had never even played three straight games with an exactly even turnover ratio.
Obviously, that means Tampa Bay is also at exactly zero in season-long turnover differential, a category that even the most statistically-adverse of NFL coaches generally preaches as being critical. The Buccaneers have picked off six passes and recovered three fumbles (out of a total of six opponent fumbles); their opponents have picked off six passes and recovered three fumbles (out of a total of six opponent fumbles). Even the results from those turnovers, which favored the Buccaneers early in the season, have nearly evened out. Both the Bucs and their opponents have scored five times off their nine turnovers, but Tampa Bay has four touchdowns and one field goal as compared to three touchdowns and two field goals for their opponents, for a total advantage of four points.
That's not enough.
The Bucs are ranked right where one would expect them to be with a zero turnover differential: tied for 16th in the NFL. Unfortunately, that means they're basically sitting right on the dividing line between success and failure this season. The 15 teams that have a positive turnover differential this season have posted a combined record of 56-32, and only two of those teams (Buffalo and Carolina) have losing records. The 17 teams that are at a zero differential or worse have a combined 36-60 record.
"Right now, we’re kind of at the minimum of where we should be," said Schiano, in regard to defensive takeaways. "Hopefully we’ll get more. We’ve got to curtail turning it over ourselves and then we’ve got to get more, because, when you really get rolling, you’re plus [in turnover ratio] a pretty good chunk there. After five games, we’re even. It’s better than all the teams that are negative, because there are some teams that are minus-15 in turnover margin. We’ve got to do better than that. That’s how we’re going to win. That’s proven – when we do that, we win, so we need to get better at that."