Things seemed bleak as TV cameras caught Trevon Diggs being escorted to the Cowboys locker room in the second quarter of the team’s Week 14 tilt versus Houston.
The Pro Bowler had been seen grabbing at his left hand a few plays prior, and as he made his way into the AT&T Stadium tunnel, the Dallas secondary was left frighteningly thin and woefully inexperienced at cornerback.
Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown had both been previously lost for the season. DaRon Bland, a fifth-round rookie who was prepping for the New Mexico Bowl this time last year, was already in, having just made his fourth NFL start. Kelvin Joseph was seeing an uptick in snaps in a week that saw Cowboys owner Jerry Jones publicly announce that it was time for the second-year player “to become a man.” Even rarely-used Nahshon Wright was being leaned on for more than special teams.
Not a good time to lose last year’s interceptions leader.
Diggs returned to the field, though, after missing just one series.
“Whatever. I’m going to just fight through it, get through it, even though it’s hurting. I’ve got to go,” he explained of his mindset afterwards.
So Diggs re-entered the game with a new tape job and a self-imposed mission to make an impact… even if he was missing the use of a digit.
“I got nine fingers to catch with. It’ll be alright.”
Diggs, in fact, even said that the shot he took to his left thumb might have been doing him a favor in that he wasn’t able to grip much. No grip, no holding penalties, he joked.
Thankfully, Diggs’s grip was plenty adequate when a loose ball bounced his way early in the third quarter.
A Donovan Wilson strip and a lucky hop gave Diggs the first fumble recovery of his career… and then the 24-year-old’s past as a college wide receiver kicked in.
Diggs initially retreated nearly 15 yards in the wrong direction while trying to elude the Houston offense and pick up enough blockers to possibly go the distance.
He ended up with the most exhausting fumble return in recent memory.
“I probably ran about 120 [yards] for 17 yards,” Diggs laughed to reporters. “But it was a good 17. It was worth it.”
Actually, the incredible effort put the ball a grand total of just nine yards past where Houston had previously snapped it. But Diggs reveals he made a wise business decision as he felt his gas tank bottom out towards the end of his run.
“Yeah, I saw two big linemen coming,” the Alabama product admitted. “And I know they were mad because I was running around the field. I know they were like, ‘When I get hold of him, I’m going to crush him.’ So, I just went out of bounds.”
Diggs’s takeaway provided a Dallas spark, but that spark fizzled out before turning into points. The ensuing drive ended on the Texans goal line as running back Ezekiel Elliott was stuffed on a fourth-and-goal play, prolonging a frustrating afternoon for the Cowboys.
But after a five-tackle day (ranking third on the team) and nursing a late-gotten lead, the dinged-up Diggs was sure he had one more highlight in him.
As Texans quarterback Davis Mills sent a 60-yard prayer into the end zone with eight seconds to play, Diggs was one of five Cowboys defenders to camp out under it.
Safety Israel Mukuamu came down with it for the first regular-season pick of his NFL career… but not without a bit of a fight from his teammate.
“Just saw the ball, went up there, and just high-pointed the ball to make a play,” Diggs explained. “My guys did a good job of boxing everybody out so that there was no one there.”
But Diggs, who had nine interceptions at this point in 2021, later lobbied for partial credit to add to his 2022 tally of three.
It seemed a fitting end to a game that didn’t go the way Diggs- or the Cowboys- had envisioned at kickoff.
“We need games like that just to see how we are going to respond to a little adversity,” Diggs admitted. “Game’s not going our way, things are not going our way, so how are we going to respond? And I think we did a real good job of that.”
Even with one less thumb to work with.
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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire