Owens Growing, and it Showed vs. Brees

Owens Growing, and it Showed vs. Brees

Jay Adams

Published November 30, 2012 at 1:21 AM

Two years ago, Chris Owens’ name was like a four-letter word for a contingent of the Falcons’ fanbase. Part of a crop of young cornerbacks, Owens was still learning the NFL when he was thrust into a nickelback position the Falcons need him to become reliable in.

He struggled at times, and in turn, he caught the ire of fans.

The 2011 offseason was no different than any other, but it signaled another year under his belt. The 2012 offseason did, too.

That experience for Owens, he said, has been invaluable.

“The biggest thing is the experience. Adjusting to the NFL from college, people belittle that process,” Owens said after the game. “It’s a major process. Some guys develop better, faster or slower than others. The past two years, with the experience I had, the coaching, the offseasons — it all just sums up to where I am now.”

During the biggest game of the year for the Falcons to this point, we saw just where Owens is now.

With Asante Samuel banged up and trying to tough through a shoulder injury that’s clearly painful for him, Owens’ number was called just a few defensive plays into the game when Samuel — who was questionable coming in Thursday night — came off the field.

Owens said he didn’t notice Brees trying to test him at all, but when a player whose nickname is “Pick Six” comes out of a game, you have to imagine the quarterback will gravitate toward throwing to that side of the field.

When Brees did, he was met with not a whole lot in the way of breathing room for his passes. Owens blanketed receivers, taking away some of Brees’ biggest options in the passing game.

“Tremendous, man. I came in after the game and gave him a big hug,” cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “That was great to see him come out here in this type of atmosphere, not knowing how much he was going to play, thinking he was just going to be a special teams player, Asante goes down and he comes out and plays tremendous.

“It’s a testament to the way we believe. No matter who’s in, we believe everybody can step in and get the job done.”

Owens did just that, especially on two particular plays. Both times in one-on-one coverage, Brees looked to Owens’ side, but Owens wasn’t having it.

The end result was two pass breakups. On another play, Owens was in great position to make an interception but the ball was overthrown.

“He’s definitely coming into his own,” safety Thomas DeCoud said. “He’s doing a hell of a job on special teams, and now he’s having his number called on defense and he’s doing a hell of a job.”

Owens, as DeCoud said, has been a crucial part of the Falcons’ special teams. If you recall last year, Owens may have saved the Falcons a win over the Vikings when he chased down a kick return and prevented a touchdown just in the nick of time.

On defense, it would seem, that 2010 campaign is on its way to becoming a distant memory. Owens vaguely remembers the criticism and he says it never helped drive him toward the growth he’s experience, but it taught him how to put the adversity aside and just do what he needs to do.

“I don’t want to say it goes in one ear and out the other, but it kinda does. You’ve got to ignore the media and just fight through it,” Owens said. “There’s going to be ups and downs in anybody’s career, anybody’s game.

“You’ve just got to fight through it.”

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