ASN’s NFL Top 10: Defensive backs steal the show in Week 3

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 27:  Josh Norman #24 of the Carolina Panthers makes a game-saving interception of a pass to Brandin Cooks #10 of the New Orleans Saints in the end zone during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers won 27-25.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The most noteworthy ASN-affiliated player in the NFL this week?

Josh Norman.


That’s right, Norman, who until Sunday night was probably best known for getting into it with teammate and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, picked off a pass that turned the Panthers game against the New Orleans Saints. And did we mention that this wasn’t your garden-variety interception? Norman, who was positioned in front of the intended receiver got big air, great extension and an arch worthy of a gymnast.

But Norman wasn’t the only ASN-affiliated player to do something out of the ordinary — the Houston Texans’ Quintin Demps got his first pick of the season, Saints quarterback Luke McCown got his first start and brother Josh McCown returned from concussion-like symptoms to put in a respectable performance.

The 10 most notable performances by ASN-affiliated players in the NFL for Week 3:

1. Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers

For a guy you’ve never heard of, Norman made the highlight reel on Sunday night, after an incredibly acrobatic interception in the Panthers’ 27-22 victory against New Orleans. Norman, a cornerback out of Coastal Carolina, leapt up in front of Saints receiver Brandin Cooks with about a minute to play in the fourth quarter. The pick sealed the game for the Panthers. Norman also had four solo tackles and one assist.

2. Quinton Demps, Houston Texans

A free safety out of UTEP, Demps picked off his first pass of the season. With Tampa Bay leading, 9-7, with 14:00 to play in the third quarter, Demps snagged a Jameis Winston pass at the Texans’ 45. The interception resulted in a 39-yard field goal that gave Houston a 10-9 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. Besides the pick, Demps broke up a pass, had four tackles and returned two kickoffs for a 23-yard average. The interception marked the second time Demps picked of a pass against Tampa Bay. When the teams last played in 2011, he had an interception that led to a touchdown.

3. Luke McCown, New Orleans Saints

McCown got his first start of the season in place of the injured Drew Brees, and he made the most of it. McCown (Louisiana Tech) completed 31 of 38 passes and had only one interception, though he did not score any touchdowns. McCown amassed 310 yards — his third most — and threw to nine different receivers. He engineered two touchdown drives and kept the Saints in the game, though they lost to the Panthers.

4. Lance Dunbar, Dallas Cowboys

Dunbar had his biggest receiving day of the year on Sunday, catching 10 passes for 100 yards in the Cowboys’ 39-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Though Dunbar, a fourth-year running back out of North Texas, didn’t score, he did figure prominently into the Cowboys ability to move the ball — he led all Dallas receivers. Dunbar also carried once for 5 yards, returned a kickoff for 28 yards and returned a punt for 4 yards.

5. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

The fourth-year wide receiver out of Florida International had his biggest game of the season in terms of yards, catching four passes for 94 yards in the Colts’ 35-33 victory against the Tennessee Titans. His 48-yard reception late in the first quarter was his longest of the season. The reception set up a touchdown two plays later that gave Indianapolis the lead. Hilton is averaging 15.1 yards per reception and is ranked No. 19 in the league for receiving yards.

6. Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns

Two games after suffering from concussion-like symptoms, McCown was impressive in the Browns’ heartbreaking 27-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders. McCown  (Sam Houston State), completed 28 of 49 attempts for 341 yards and two touchdowns. McCown’s passer rating of 83.2 was the second highest of his career (it was 109 in 2013 when played eight games for the Chicago Bears).

7. Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets

There wasn’t much good going on for Fitzpatrick in the Jets’ 24-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The veteran quarterback was forced to put the ball in the air 58 times and the not-so-surprising end result was three interceptions, though the Eagles were unable to convert any to scores. Fitzpatrick completed 35 of his attempts and had two touchdowns. He had his first fumble of the season, as well, setting up an Eagles’ touchdown. The Harvard grad got the Jets on the board late in the second quarter, engineering a nine-play drive that culminated with a 16-yard pass to Brandon Marshall. His second touchdown pass capped an 18-play drive that started the Jets’ 19-yard line.

8. Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rainey (Western Kentucky) didn’t get his hands on the ball the traditional way on Sunday, but he did recover two Houston Texans fumbles, returned a kickoff for 27 yards and had five punt returns for an average of 9.6. yards in the Buccaneers’ 19-9 loss.

9. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

The Delaware grad passed for 362 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but the Ravens dropped to 0-3 after losing 28-24 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Flacco completed a respectable 32 of 49 passing attempts, but couldn’t get the Ravens on the board until he hit Steve Smith for a 50-yard completion in the third quarter to cut the Bengals lead to 14-7.

10. Corey Graham, Buffalo Bills

Talk about carrying the defense — Graham a ninth-year safety out of New Hampshire, nearly doubled the next best defender when it came to tackling on Sunday. He had 10 solo tackles and two assists in the Bills’ 41-14 drubbing of the Miami Dolphins.

Honorable mention

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (Presbyterian) forced a fumble in Arizona’s 47-7 victory against the San Francisco 49ers. … Western Kentucky grad Jack Doyle posted his first stats for the season on Sunday, catching three passes for 32 yards in the Colts’ victory. Teammate Mike Adams (Delaware) had seven solo tackles and one assist. … Linebacker Jamie Collins (Southern Miss) led the New England Patriots’ defense with four solo tackles, one assist and one sack in a 51-17 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars. … Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Josh Scobee kicked the game-winning field goal, a 41-yard kick with two minutes remaining in a 12-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams. Scobee (Louisiana Tech) also made a 21-yard attempt in the first quarter to give the Steelers an early 3-0 lead. His holder for both attempts was Eastern Kentucky grad Jordan Berry, who had four punts for an average of 41 yards. … James Ihedigbo (UMass) had a part in seven tackles (four solo, three assists) in the Detroit Lions’ 24-12 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Above:  Carolina’s Josh Norman makes a game-saving interception of a pass intended for Brandin Cooks in the end zone during their game at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. The Panthers beat the Saints, 27-22. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Jill R. Dorson

Jill R. Dorson is a freelance writer based in San Diego.