Ahead of Sunday’s Week 2 game, the Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase gave a scouting report on Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs that was far from flattering. While praising Diggs’ athleticism, speed and ball skills, Chase specifically chimed in on the 2021 interception leader’s coverage techniques, calling it a “little fluke.”
In the end, however, it was Chase who was largely missing from the final box score. And it was a Diggs hit that made it possible for the Cowboys to win 20-17 at the last second.
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According to Pro Football Focus, Diggs was brilliant in his coverage when he was against Chase, allowing last year’s offensive rookie just two catches for 14 yards. (Chase had five receptions for a total of 54 yards.)
But the talk in Cowboys Nation was Diggs’ solo tackle on a critical late third play, forcing a Cincinnati punt and setting up Cooper Rush and the Dallas offense for the game-winning final.
“What impressed me so much about that one,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said of Diggs on Monday, “is just the aggressive nature to go finish. For me, that’s what what does a real competitor do: when it’s there, right now, how are you going to do it? It was a 3rd and 3, and in that space there is no room to give. You have to go there go, defend them and play. It was one of my favorite games in the game.”
Micah may be THAT GUY
But Diggs is the one driving the emotion of Defense
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But it was a game that nearly went off the rails for the Dallas defense before it even started. Quinn revealed that an equipment problem caused a bit of a scramble on the touchline and in the squad in the moments before the ball broke.
“What you don’t know is that in that third game the helmets went off. So we couldn’t call a game like you normally would,” Quinn explained. “I saw [Cincinnati] interference too. I knew that the two teams did not have the communication between the player and the helmet.
“The coach-to-coach ones always worked,” he continued. “It was specifically my helmet communication.”
That meant safety Malik Hooker, who wore the green dot in place of the injured Jayron Kearse, received no instructions from Quinn in the seconds just before the all-important third down with less than two minutes of regulation time.
And Hooker was getting radio silence from his coordinator.
“It doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” Quinn recalled. “We signaled, called coach to coach, then he waved to the guys. It was definitely later than normal.
But the sideline relayed Quinn’s call to Hooker in time for him and the defense to comply.
“It was the right call,” Quinn confirmed.
“It’s a good feeling to know that Malik knew he didn’t have me so he [looks to the sideline for] a call,” he continued. “Sometimes in training I do that without giving them a call, so they just have to do whatever I would do in that check. Someone is on the ball, I don’t call him, he looks at me, I don’t have one and I say to myself: “Now is the time”. This is an example of how we would try to plan for when those times happen.
The DC admits his unit probably wouldn’t have been able to respond so seamlessly at this time last year. Just another bonus for keeping the defense together for a second year under his command.
In fact, Quinn said the team practiced such a scenario during training camp this summer, with head coach Mike McCarthy announcing, “Helmets; headsets are out,” and the sideline switches to what Quinn describes as 911 mode.
“Put yourself in that moment, expecting there to be adversity, that’s fine,” Quinn said. “It was chaotic, but I knew we were going to get the call.”
What no one could really know, however, as Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd held off Joe Burrow’s short pass was whether Diggs, the only man standing between Boyd and the first-down scorer, would make the solo tackle. before getting there.
Diggs played it textbook style, wrapping Boyd and driving him to the turf for a yard gain, pinning Cincinnati deep and forcing a punt that eventually put Dallas kicker Brett Maher in. position to win the game with a 50-yard field goal.
“We just needed a stop,” Diggs told reporters afterward. But Diggs actually did of them stop ; he also kept running back Joe Mixon just three yards out on the previous pass.
“I was like, ‘Let me make these plays and get the offense back on the court and let’s win this thing,'” he said. “The drive before, I had given up a hold. I was a little crazy about that. I wanted to go out there and make a game for my team.
His team noticed, if a little surprised, that the biggest tackle of the match came from the one whose real specialty is interceptions.
“We even said it was the hardest tackle we’ve ever seen Diggs,” linebacker Micah Parsons joked in the locker room. “He fired like a cannon. I was proud of him. When I saw it was 7, I was shocked for a second. But it was a huge boost. Way out of the field, three and out.
“Tackling… is something we work hard on to make sure that part of our game comes to life. When we cross it, whether it’s on the edge, in the perimeter, in line, we do a number of different types of tackles. I think it’s one of those things you’re always working on,” Quinn said. “These are things that we have emphasized during the week. That’s how hard you have to tackle. That’s what we have to do. I was happy to see that. »
And with Giants bulldozer rusher Saquon Barkley on Monday night’s schedule, the Cowboys will be looking to see some more solid tackles from their defense.
They’re also hoping the helmets stay operational…even though they’ve shown Quinn they know how to handle a technical malfunction.
“It added a little extra to make it a little more fun.”