Sunday night in Philadelphia, it looked like the Cowboys threw a rookie out there at cornerback.
Well, technically they did. But Morris Claiborne has rarely looked like a rookie all season. That changed in the Cowboys' 38-23 victory over the Eagles in which Claiborne made numerous mistakes in coverage.
It started early. On the Eagles first drive of the game, Claiborne gave up a 2-yard touchdown to Riley Cooper for Cooper's first touchdown of the season.
From that point on, there were plenty of mental lapses from the first year cornerback. In total, Claiborne was called for six penalties in the game.
After the game, Claiborne talked about the downward spiral that he found himself in during what was the worst game of his young career.
"It seemed like once bad things happened, it just snowballed on me," Claiborne said. "I managed to fight through it and we came up with a win."
Two of the most notable mistakes were both defensive holding calls in the second half. In the third quarter, the Eagles faced third down and quarterback Nick Foles threw a long pass to Jeremy Maclin. Claiborne seemingly had Maclin well covered, but then put his hands on him and was called for defensive holding. What would have been fourth down and a punting situation for the Eagles turned into a 20-yard penalty and first down. The Eagles scored a field goal on the drive.
On the very next Eagles possession, Anthony Spencer made what seemed to be a game-changing play when he intercepted Foles on the Eagles 17-yard line. However, another defensive holding call on Claiborne caused the interception to be negated.
Claiborne was also called offside multiple times in the game. While it may have seemed like the penalties just kept piling up, Claiborne knew that he had to stay focused on his responsibilities in coverage. He claimed that his teammates stood by him throughout the game, reminding him that he had a responsibility to move on and keep working.
"The whole game those guys were there with me," Claiborne said. "Every time something bad happened those guys were there trying to pick me up and letting me know (I've) got to fight through.
Ten weeks into the season, Claiborne is approaching the time of year when his typical college seasons at LSU began to wind down. It is not an uncommon time for first-year players to hit a "rookie wall." Claiborne was asked what he would need to do to avoid performances like Sunday's against the Eagles and he explained that it was really pretty simple.
"Just keep working hard. Just keep doing the things I've been doing," Claiborne said. "Don't get down on myself and continue to work."
You can probably count on Claiborne continuing to work hard. He is a member of a defensive unit that takes a lot of pride in their abilities and he certainly does not take that lightly.
"We're trying to be the best secondary in the NFL and for us to do that, I can't go out and play like that."