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Rookie Cornerback Marlon Humphrey Rebounds After Jimmy Smith Goes Down

Posted Dec 3, 2017

Stepping in after Jimmy Smith tore his Achilles, first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey was tested by Detroit's playmakers but responded with a clutch interception.


When Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was carried off the field by trainers, all eyes shifted to rookie first-round pick Marlon Humphrey.

The Alabama product is no stranger to a big stage. He’s seen a lot of game action this season, and took over for Smith after Achilles soreness sent him off the field early in Oakland.

This was different. The Ravens knew Smith’s outlook wasn’t good, and Humphrey had a big test being thrown into the fire against the Detroit Lions’ potent passing attack.

It didn’t look good at the start, as Humphrey allowed five catches for a season-high 116 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

But just when it looked like the rookie might be in for a long day, Humphrey rebounded to make a clutch interception to help propel the Ravens to a 44-20 victory in what turned into a second-half shootout.

And with it, he at least slightly helped ease the pain the Ravens are feeling after the loss of their top cornerback.

“It’s different than it has been before [when Smith was injured],” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of good, young players. We’ll step up, and we’ll still play at a really high level in the secondary. I’m really confident in that.”

The Ravens led 20-0 at halftime, but the Lions started their big comeback once Smith was off the field at the start of the second half.

First, receiver Marvin Jones rose above Humphrey to make a 42-yard catch to put the Lions on the 4-yard line. They scored on the next play.

“It was a coverage that [Humphrey] should have been on top of, and he knows that,” Harbaugh said. “He let Marvin get a step or two on him and he had to come back. That’s just technique. He normally does better than that with technique.”

The Ravens offense stretched their lead back to 14 points in the third quarter, but the Lions went right back at Humphrey. This time Jones again got behind Humphrey for a 46-yard gain, and Humphrey was also flagged for defensive pass interference after he got twisted around. The penalty was declined.

Stafford then hit tight end Michael Roberts for a 23-yard gain after he got past Humphrey, who was physical at the line with the big-bodied pass catcher, but lost the battle. The Lions scored again three points later.

Asked what the difference was between the Ravens’ first-half defensive shutout and the second half, Humphrey said, “honestly, it was probably me.”

“I let up those two big passes,” he said. “I mean there were other things, small things. But the two big chunk plays I gave up, the two easy ones. Just bad eyes on my part, and then I panicked a little bit when the ball was in the air.”

That could have been the point when things snowballed on Humphrey. Many rookie cornerbacks have had it happen to them. Jimmy Smith still remembers a primetime game in San Diego his rookie year in which he got torched.

But Humphrey stayed with it. He has projected confidence since he first arrived in Baltimore, and it didn’t wilt in the face of the greatest adversity yet in his young career.

“One thing about Marlon, he doesn’t let it get him down,” Harbaugh said. “He doesn’t get overwhelmed by situations. He’s a very poised, very confident guy, and he came back and made a huge play.”

Coaches and teammates, including Terrell Suggs, came over to remind Humphrey to stay calm and move onto the next play. Suggs rallied the entire team around him and told them to let go of mistakes and get back to playing Ravens defense.

“That’s one of the hardest things to do at cornerback [is forget plays],” Humphrey said. “When you make a play, you have to move on to the next one. When you let up a big play, you have to let that go. I let two big ones up today. It was looking pretty rough, but I just played on and got to the next one. I was able to come up with one a little late there and help us get back on track.”

The Ravens had just taken a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, but it still didn’t feel safe with about seven minutes left. That’s when Humphrey made his play.

The Lions were facing a second-and-18 after a Suggs sack, and Stafford tried to make a play as he rolled to his left. Humphrey was in zone coverage and sensed that the play was going deeper than he originally thought. Stafford overthrew his receiver Jones, and Humphrey leapt high in front of safety Eric Weddle to make the interception.

The pick – Humphrey’s second of the season – ended Stafford’s streak of 20-straight completions and set up another Ravens touchdown four plays later that all but sealed the game.

“That was huge. That really helps Marlon’s confidence,” outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. “It can be a confidence killer when you’re a young guy and they hit you on a couple of deep routes. He’s a baller, we all know that he can play, and he came out there and made that huge play for us.”

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