Titans safety’s 5 picks in consecutive games ties NFL mark
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kevin Byard stretched his arm into the air reaching for the ball only to see teammate Adoree Jackson break up the Tennessee safety’s chance at a third interception.
Good thing the second-year safety can console himself with one of the NFL’s best back-to-back performances.
Byard intercepted two passes Sunday in Tennessee’s 23-20 victory over Baltimore , and now the safety has five interceptions combined in consecutive games to tie the NFL mark also held by four others. Byard became the first with as many picks in two games since DeAngelo Hall had five interceptions in 2010 for the Washington Redskins.
“NBA2K, so guys know when guys are hot, you get that red ring around you,” Byard said. ”I’m in the zone right now.”
The 5-foot-11 safety was one of the nation’s best in picking off passes in college at Middle Tennessee where he finished with 19 interceptions. The Titans took notice and made him the first selection of the third round in 2016 with the 64th pick overall. Byard started the final seven games as a rookie, but didn’t get his hands on his first career interception until his 20th NFL game.
Byard certainly is making up for lost time and now has an NFL-best six interceptions through the early Sunday games — all in his past five games.
The safety intercepted three passes in Tennessee’s 12-9 overtime victory over Cleveland on Oct. 22 . Against Baltimore, he got his fourth when cornerback Logan Ryan peeled off his target and got a hand on Joe Flacco’s pass for Breshard Perriman. The ball went into the air, and Byard quickly grabbed it and ran it back 33 yards.
Ryan said Byard thanked him for the interception.
“He’s Johnny on the spot right now,” Ryan said.
Byard’s fifth interception in two games and sixth of the season came on Flacco’s second pass of the third quarter. Byard had position in front of Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson and easily intercepted the pass .
“That was one I’d want back,” Flacco said. “I was trying to give him a chance there, and probably trying to press forward too much in the type of game we were in, and that’s when you get yourself in trouble.”
That interception put Byard in exclusive company. Hall was the most recent with five interceptions in five games, joining Albert Lewis in 1985, Willie Buchanon in 1978 and Mike Haynes in 1976.
“He’s in the right zone,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
And Byard nearly had a third interception that would’ve given him the NFL mark for most over two games except for Jackson. Byard went up for the ball in the end zone on a Flacco pass to Mike Wallace in the final 70 seconds only to miss out on yet another pick.
“I was on the sideline the whole time, ’Man, I’ve never heard of anyone doing three in back-to-back games,” Byard said. “I was thinking that was going to be the one. At the end, we got the play. We got a pass breakup. I’ll take it.”
The Titans (5-3) are just happy to have Byard on their defense. Haynes finished with eight interceptions in 1976 for New England and wound up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Buchanon had nine interceptions for Green Bay in 1978, and Lewis had eight for Kansas City in 1985. Hall wound up with just six interceptions in 2010.
“He’s definitely blossomed into one of those greats the way he’s playing this year,” Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “We’re going to keep following his lead because he’s making tremendous plays out there.”
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