Last Sunday, there was nothing but a clear path of green grass between Desmond Trufant, Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown’s throw and the end zone.
As Trufant attempted to look the football into his hands, it grew larger and larger. Then, it grew too large, bouncing off his chest and into the waiting arms of Buccaneers’ wide receiver Vincent Jackson for a first down.
It was the second week in a row that Trufant’s hands had let him down on a pass he would normally come away with.
So when Cam Newton on Sunday tried to sneak a slant pass to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, the Panthers’ rookie No. 1 draft pick, Trufant didn’t need any extra motivation. Newton was throwing off his back foot. The Falcons were leading 6-3 early in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium.
Trufant, the 2013 first-round selection, jumped the route before Benjamin even made his cut and then made sure to hold onto the ball with both hands before returning it 19 yards to the Carolina 14-yard line.
“It was third and short, so I knew it was going be a quick rhythm game. I knew they were going to try to get it out quick,” said Trufant, who drew Benjamin for an assignment more than any other Falcons’ defensive back on Sunday.
“I just saw the route and broke on it and Cam just threw it right to me,” he continued. “I’m just glad that I caught it, you know what I mean?”
The interception, which came in the same quarter when the Falcons held Carolina to just 43 yards and 0-for-4 on third down, was the first for Trufant this season and the third of his young career.
Asked about how it felt to wrap his hands securely around a football for the first time this season, Trufant was all smiles. The interception led to a field goal and a 9-3 lead. The Falcons would triumph 19-17.
“It was great,” he said. “I’ve been working hard on that aspect of my game. It’s definitely been bothering me how many picks I’ve been dropping, but I’ve been telling myself that I’m in the right position and as long as I stay in the right spot, they’re going to come.
“I’m just going to keep working and hopefully, I’m going to get some more.”
The interception was the second of the day for the Falcons, after Kemal Ishmael recorded a own takeaway on Carolina’s first drive of the game, when one of Newton’s passes tipped off the hands of Greg Olsen.
“I think that was probably our best defensive game,” said Trufant. “At the end they made a couple of plays. But overall, we were stopping them. We were flying around. We were tackling and getting turnovers and we’ve just got to build on that.”