In the risky business that comes with relying on rookies to fill two of the top three cornerback spots, the Falcons got a taste of all that comes with it Sunday against the Panthers – promise and a few problems.
Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford each made an interception against Cam Newton, the first time the Falcons have picked off two passes in a game all season, and the first in Trufant’s young career, but they also made some costly mistakes in key situations.
Trufant was flagged for pass interference twice on third downs, though the second one might have been a gift on a pass that appeared to be tipped at the line of scrimmage. The first flag, though, came on third and 4 at the Falcons 12, allowing the Panthers first and goal from the 3 on their way to the game’s first touchdown.
“Things happen,” said Trufant, who also intercepted a deep try from Newton to Ted Ginn Jr. at the Falcons 5 in the second quarter. “As long as I keep fighting, keep working. I put every play behind me, good or bad, and made some plays out there, so whatever I can do to help us win or put us in position to win, I’m going to just keep doing.”
Alford picked his teammate up after the second pass interference call on third and 8 late in the second quarter. Alford caught Newton overthrowing five-time Pro bowl receiver Steve Smith in the end zone later on the drive and intercepted the pass in the back of the end zone. He managed to keep both feet inbounds, landing on his right foot, then dragging his left toe.
While the rest of Bank of America Stadium waited for officials to review the play, which was initially ruled an incomplete pass, Alford knew he’d secured his second career interception to go along with Trufant’s first.
“We both got picks, but we didn’t come away with the win so what we did was not good enough,” Alford said. “We’re here to win ballgames and help the team win.”
Together Trufant and Alford helped keep Smith in check. He caught a relatively modest four passes for 52 yards. But they couldn’t account for Brandon LaFell, who finished with six catches for 74 yards. LaFell made the momentum-stealing play of the game for a 30-yard gain at Alford’s expense.
Veteran cornerback Asante Samuel went for an interception and nearly got burned but recovered to catch LaFell and punch the ball free. Alford was right there but couldn’t corral the fumble, as the ball bounced back into LaFell’s grasp.
The Panthers scored on an 8-yard touchdown run from there to go up 24-10 and never looked back.
“I got a hand on it and then when I went to haul it in, he got it from underneath me,” Alford said. “The ones that you get (to) - you’ve got to get them.”