ASN’s NFL Top 10: Rashad Jennings keeps Giants on winning track

XXX during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.

Who says running backs aren’t tough? Generally thought of guys who duck and cut or leap over the line of scrimmage, Rashad Jennings did his best on Sunday to redefine the role.

Jennings, a Liberty grad, caught a pass in the flat, dodged a defender and then all but mowed another down on his way to a 51-yard touchdown reception for the New York Giants. The catch effectively clinched a 24-10 victory against the Buffalo Bills, which may well have been a turning point in their season. After losing its first two games, the Giants have won two in a row.

“We were challenged after the first two games where we had leads going into the fourth quarter and lost them both,” quarterback Eli Manning said after the game. “So that was a huge play by Rashad. A great effort and we needed it. The team needed it.”

While Jennings was making his offensive statement, Carolina’s Josh Norman and Jacksonville’s Jonathan Cyprien were dominating the defensive side of the ball. Norman had two interceptions in the Panthers defeat of Tampa Bay while Cyprien returned to the starting lineup and led all ASN-affiliated players in tackles (14 total).

Below, the 10 most notable plays by ASN-affiliated players in NFL Week 4:

1. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants

This catch was hard to miss, even if you didn’t see the Giants beat the Bufflao Bills, 24-10. Jennings, a running back out of Liberty, didn’t just catch a 51-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning, he manhandled any would-be roadblocks, breaking three tackles on his way to the end zone. The touchdown, which came with 7:54 to play, sealed the Giants’ victory. The catch was one of two and Jennings also carried the ball nine times for 38 yards. It was Jennings’ first touchdown of the season.

2. Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers

After his acrobatic, game-changing interception in Week 3, Norman (Coastal Carolina) was a game-changer again on Sunday, intercepting two passes and returning one for a touchdown in the Panthers 37-23 victory against the Buccaneers. The returns were record-setting — according to the NFL, Norman is the first Carolina cornerback to return two interceptions in a single game in the first month of a season and the first to do it league-wide in five years. Norman’s first interception was Jameis Winston’s first pass of the day, which Norman returned 46 yards for a touchdown. He returned the second interception 34 yards to set up a Carolina touchdown five plays later. Norman also had a pick-six against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1.

3. Jonathan Cyprien, Jacksonville Jaguars

A safety out of Florida International, Cyprien made a welcome return to the Jaguars’ starting lineup after injuring his calf during Week 1. Cyprien led all ASN-affiliated defensive players in tackles, dragging down 11 offensive players on his own and adding in three assists in the Jaguars loss to the Colts. His return toughened up a Jaguars defense that was pummeled 51-17 by the New England Patriots in Week 3.

4. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

While Baltimore kept the ball mostly on the ground, Flacco passed for 189 yards, completing 20 of 33 passing attempts and throwing for one touchdown. Down 20-7 after an interception early in the third quarter, the Delaware grad completed a 15-yard pass to Kamar Aiken for a touchdown on Baltimore’s next possession. He also directed a 69-yard drive that began with 1:01 to play in the fourth quarter that tied the score and forced overtime. The eight-play drive in overtime that ended with a 52-yard field goal by Justin Tucker gave the Ravens their first win, a 23-20 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Flacco is ranked No. 8 in the NFL in passing yards (1,052) for the season.

5. Miles Austin, Philadelphia Eagles

A wide receiver out of Monmouth, Austin scored his first touchdown of the season in the Eagles’ 23-20 loss to the Washington Redskins. Austin had only two receptions for a total of 51 yards. His touchdown reception in the fourth quarter accounted for 39 of those yards and temporarily gave the Eagles a 20-16 lead.  Prior to this game, Austin hadn’t had a reception since Week 1.

6. Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns

McCown had his most prolific game of the season, completing 32 of 41 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns. The performance was marred by a single fumble. McCown (Sam Houston State) threw touchdown passes of 34 (first quarter) and 1 (fourth quarter) yards and completed a two-point conversion pass in the fourth quarter, as well. McCown’s passer rating of 119.1 was his highest of the season, but the Browns lost, 30-27, to the San Diego Chargers.

7. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins

Morris (Florida Atlantic) was the Redskins most prolific rusher on Sunday, carrying the ball 17 times for 62 yards. He did most of his work in traffic, averaging 3.6 yards per carry in a 23-20 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. Morris also had two receptions for three yards.

8. Corey Graham, Buffalo Bills

Graham did what he could to carry the Bills defense in a 24-10 loss to the New York Giants. He was credited with having a part in 13 tackles – eight solos and five assists. He also had the Bills only sack.

9. Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets

The Jets scored only one of their touchdowns by air, but Fitzpatrick had a serviceable game, completing 16 of 29 passes for 218 yards, including a touchdown. In the second quarter, the Jets opened a 20-7 lead over the Miami Dolphins when Fitzpatrick (Harvard) completed a 10-yard pass over the middle to Eric Decker. The Jets won, 27-14.

10. Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A tight end, Brate took a circuitous route to his first start this season. After signing as an undrafted free agent in May 2014, he made Tampa Bay’s practice squad before being elevated to the regular roster in November 2014. The team released him on Sept. 15 of this season. Brate then spent one week on the Saints practice squad before Tampa picked him up again on Sept. 22. Sunday, Brate (Harvard) got his first stats of the season, catching one pass for 7 yards against the Carolina Panthers.

Worth mentioning

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (Florida International) caught seven passes for 67 yards in a 16-13 victory against Jacksonville. … Cleveland Browns cornerback Tramon Williams (Louisiana Tech) had his best game of the season, making five solo tackles. He’s twice previously had a part in five tackles during a game.  …San Francisco 49ers receiver Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech) had two receptions for 53 yards, including a career-high long of 40, in San Francisco’s loss to Green Bay. … Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (North Texas) led Dallas with 54 yards on three carries in a loss to New Orleans. He also had a 17-yard kickoff return. … Detroit Lions safety James Ihedigbo (UMass) had a team-leading seven solo tackles in a Monday night loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He also had an assist and a sack. … The Pittsburgh Steelers released veteran kicker Josh Scobee (Louisiana Tech) on Friday after he missed two field goals in the Thursday night game.

Above: Rashad Jennings of the Giants runs past the Bills’ Preston Brown during the second half of Sunday’s 24-10 victory in Buffalo. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Jill R. Dorson

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