Saints Dolphins Football

New Orleans Saints cornerback Ken Crawley, right, intercepts a pass intended for Miami Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas (89) during the first half of an NFL football game at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Matt Dunham

LONDON — Ken Crawley had to spend two weeks waiting for his opportunity.

Two long weeks, spent warming up with the other inactive Saints, then watching from the sideline as the rest of the secondary struggled against Minnesota. 

Then injuries forced Crawley into the starting lineup against Carolina, and the lengthy second-year cornerback out of Colorado has spent the past two games making the case that he should never be out of the mix again. 

Crawley, once again forced into the lineup at the last minute this weekend, ripped Miami's momentum away by picking off Jay Cutler in the end zone to spark a Saints defensive shutout in a 20-0 win over the Dolphins.

“It was the first drive, and (Jay) Ajayi was having a heck of a first drive, they finally end up tossing it up," defensive end Cam Jordan said. "We came up with the big play by Ken Crawley."

Miami, like Carolina the week before, rolled right down the field on its opening series, ripping off nearly half of the 186 yards the Saints would allow on the afternoon. Alternating tackle-breaking runs by Ajayi with throws over the middle by Cutler, the Dolphins picked up 91 yards, marching down the field despite two penalties.

A touchdown would have given a Dolphins offense that head coach Adam Gase called "garbage" after last week's clunker against the Jets some much-needed momentum. 

In a short-yardage situation, a cornerback has to make a choice on what route to defend. Crawley, whose long 6-foot body is good for defending throws in the air, decided to make sure Julius Thomas didn't beat the Saints over the top. 

"I told one of our d-linemen to stand up for the slant," Crawley said. "I just played the fade."

Cutler floated the fade beyond Thomas's reach, and Crawley made the leaping interception, the first of his career. 

Crawley's pick gave him an eye-popping highlight to go with the workmanlike performance he turned in last week against Carolina. With Marshon Lattimore and Sterling Moore both injured, Crawley made eight tackles, broke up two passes and forced one early field goal with a third-down tackle-for-loss. 

"He probably did not have the splash plays with the interceptions like a couple of the other guys had, but when you just look at from a consistency basis, I thought he played really well in the game last week," defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. 

The splash plays came this week. 

After the interception, Crawley nearly picked off Cutler again, stepping in front of a comeback route by Devante Parker, a ball that was in his hands until Parker ripped it out with a desperation swipe. 

"I had it," Crawley said. "He just took it out of my hands.”

Crawley made several interceptions over a two-week stretch during training camp, but he fell behind De'Vante Harris near the end of camp. 

But the skills he showed in August have risen to the surface again when it matters most.

"He's done a real good job," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "From year one to year two. ...  We've seen him in training camp, you guys have seen him really locate the ball, and I was proud of him."

Waiting for two weeks could have knocked Crawley off of his game. 

He chose to channel it into his preparation, getting ready for a chance he knew would come in an NFL where the depth chart is always changing. 

"It’s just motivation," Crawley said. "A lot of guys feed off of that. A lot of guys would keep playing up to their own expectations, playing up to my expectations."

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.