Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr has been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his exploits against the Steelers. For the second straight week, Carr picked off a pass that changed the momentum of a game. In Week 14, the Bengals were leading the Cowboys 10-3 and were marching the ball downfield with ease, like they had been doing for the entire early portion of the game. Everything changed when Carr stepped in front of a pass intended for A.J. Green and returned it to the Cincy 27. A few plays later the Cowboys tied the game at 10-10.
This past week, Carr picked off Ben Roethlisberger on the first drive of overtime and returned it to the 1-yard line where Dan Bailey easily converted the game-winner. For good measure, Carr also had four tackles and three passes defensed in the win. He leads the Cowboys with three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Don't forget, back against the Eagles in Week 10, he had an interception that he returned for a touchdown.
Carr had some up and down moments early in the season, but his recent big plays have helped propel the Cowboys into the playoff race. He was a big-ticket free agent who is really starting to pay off. It will be nice to have him in a Cowboys uniform for upcoming seasons. He will probably be even more effective once the Cowboys can get back to press-coverage on a regular basis.
Off the field, it's been a rough few weeks. Carr played in Kansas City and was friends with Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, so he was hit hard by that event. Then a week later he was dealing with the Josh Brent/Jerry Brown tragedy. That's a lot of emotional upheaval to deal with in such a short period of time. But on the field, he is elevating his game.
Carr played under Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley in Kansas City when Haley was head coach there. It was that knowledge of Haley's tendencies that helped Carr pick-off Roethlisberger.
The Cowboys were sitting in a zone, protecting themselves from a deep strike to the speedy Wallace. But Carr believed Haley was more likely to try an out pass to slowly move the Steelers into scoring range. Carr guessed right, jumping the route and becoming the hero.
"I just stayed in my zone and I trusted myself this time," Carr said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He made a throw behind (Mike Wallace), so I went and got the ball. I've been dealing with Coach Haley for three years, so I finally got a chance to play against him. It worked out that some of his tendencies held true.
"It helped a lot just to know how a person thinks on the field. I had a chance to figure out how he thinks and how he's going to attack me -- know how he coached me up in Kansas City. Basically, it helped me play to my weaknesses and make them my strengths."
Kudos to Carr.