If you have been waiting on Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne to come back down to earth and return to his days of being considered a first-round bust, Sunday's matchup against NFL-leading receiver A.J. Green and the Cincinnati Bengals seemed like the perfect opportunity.
In a way it was...for Claiborne, who continued to prove that those days disappointing days are behind him.
Green came into the game leading the league with 32 catches for 468 yards and two touchdowns. He was held four receptions for 50 yards.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Most importantly, two passes from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to Green in the end zone were batted way for pass deflections by Claiborne, who is fifth in the league in lowest completion percentage against and has yet allow a touchdown in five games.
"That was a goal during the week to pretty much try to take him away from them," Claiborne said. "He’ll beat you by himself. That was one of our goals of the week, just coming in. If they’re going to beat us, make somebody else beat us. We’re not going to let them do it with 18."
It wasn't just Claiborne, cornerback Brandon Carr had his chances against Green and left unscathed. The Cowboys did a good job mixing their coverages, giving the both of cornerbacks help underneath and over the top.
“Well he’s a great football player,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There’s no question about that. He’s been productive throughout his career when he’s gotten ton of attention, so a real challenge for Mo Claiborne, challenge for Brandon Carr. He lines up mostly outside so those guys had to guard him a lot, but also we did some stuff in our coverages to give him a little attention. The underneath guys gave him some attention. But I just thought in general, our guys did a good job guarding him. They understood what the challenge was going into it.”
The Cowboys had four sacks and constant pressure on Dalton. But it was Claiborne came up with the big pass deflections when the Bengals targeted Green for big plays in the end zone. It's was a continuation of a magical comeback year for Claiborne, who is being asked to take on the opponents best receiver as the team's shut down cornerback after being considered a draft bust for the last four years.
"I know I can do it," Claiborne said. "I know I can go out and play with the best. Ain’t no doubt in my mind I can do it."