Morris Claiborne owed some pretty big thanks to Dwayne Harris and the rest of the Cowboys who stepped up with huge plays in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 38-23 win over the Eagles.
Had the Cowboys lost that game, Claiborne would have been one of the Cowboys wearing goat horns when the blame game started after the final whistle. He had a day that had him ticketed for a roasting until his teammates pulled him out of the fire.
Claiborne was beaten for a touchdown and penalized five times against the Eagles. Two of the flags were for defensive holding and one was for pass interference, which is too many penalties while also being the kind of penalties that you expect a defensive back to commit. The other two flags were for being offside, though, and that's nearly incomprehensible.
Even if Claiborne is playing press coverage, he has to have more presence of mind than to line up on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage. And not being aware of it when you've already committed one infraction would be a benchable offense in some organizations. We're not arguing in favor of Claiborne seeing the bench, but figuring out how that happened would be helpful.
If Claiborne's mistake is simply a case of being overly aggressive, it isn't something you need to make a huge deal about beyond reminding him that there he's required to remain on his side of the ball until the play begins. You learn from it and move on to better days. If it is a sign of some mental fatigue, though, the team needs to find a way to keep him fresher the rest of the way.
With a rookie, it is no guarantee you'll pull it off. He's had so much thrown his way in such a short amount of time that he'd be superhuman not to be even a little exhausted by it. There's also the dreaded "rookie wall" ahead, the moment when players are playing later in the year than they ever have in the past.
The Cowboys cornerbacks have generally played well the last three weeks. Any major downturn from Claiborne would make the team more reliant on Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, though. Both players have played well enough in sub roles this year, but the memory of their less impressive work in larger roles makes any change an unappetizing one to ponder.
Claiborne and Brandon Carr have been vital to what the team has done well defensively this season. As long as Carr is healthy, we'd expect more of the same from him. Claiborne doesn't have the same track record, though, which makes his ability to bounce back from last week something to watch this weekend.