CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After giving up the long touchdown that powered Detroit’s comeback victory from a 13-point deficit Oct. 19, Saints cornerback Corey White decided the yellowish mohawk he’d sported all season had to go.
So he shaved it clean off — and he may never return to that hairstyle again after intercepting his second pass in four days in the Saints’ 28-10 win over the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday night.
“I think I’ll be done with that for life,” White said with a chuckle in the visitor’s locker room. “At least I will as long as I keep getting blessings like that.”
When White intercepted a throw from Panthers quarterback Cam Newton — it bounced off intended receiver Brenton Bersin and into the air at New Orleans’ 26 with about 11 minutes to go in the second quarter — it didn’t result in a scoring drive for the Saints offense. But it did contribute to a 14-0 halftime shutout that saw the Saints force four punts and create two takeaways on the six Panthers possessions in the first two quarters of the game.
It was following the second takeaway and fourth punt of the half that the Saints got a 3-yard touchdown scamper by tailback Mark Ingram and a 1-yard TD reception by tight end Jimmy Graham to take a two-score lead into the break.
White’s interception served as a reminder to all that he’s been in the right place at the right time more than anyone else the last 15 times the Saints have taken the field for a regular-season game.
Since former Saints cornerback Jabari Greer suffered a career-ending knee injury in a Week 11 win at home against San Francisco last year and White stepped into that spot, the 2012 fifth-round draft choice from Samford has accounted for five of New Orleans’ 13 takeaways. He personally caused a sixth.
“Hey, man, when you’re doing the right things in life, period, good stuff happens,” Saints safety Rafael Bush said. “He’s always around the ball, and he’s always making plays.”
White’s gotten his own takeaways off two fumble recoveries in a pair of separate games in Atlanta and three interceptions.
Of course, he fumbled one of those interceptions right back to the opponent. But one of those picks came in Sunday night’s 44-23 win against Green Bay. In that game, he also created a second interception by tipping up a pass that linebacker David Hawthorne snatched out of the air.
And the other of White’s two interceptions since Sunday night factored into a win that dropped Carolina (3-5-1) into second place in the NFC South and sent the Saints (4-4) to the top of the division.
“We preach in practice, ‘Continue to run to the ball and good things will happen,’ ” Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton said Thursday. “That’s what Corey does — he runs to the ball. ... (And) every time he runs to the ball, it tips up, and the ball’s right there. It’s been great for us.”
It’s been great for White, too.
The only other Saints player to have multiple takeaways in the last 15 regular-season games is White’s fellow cornerback, Keenan Lewis. And he has two.
More importantly, White’s form had dipped markedly in outings during Weeks 5 and 7 this season.
According to the website Pro Football Focus, he permitted four receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown on five targets in a 37-31 overtime win in New Orleans against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 5.
He then allowed seven completions on eight passes for 143 yards and a touchdown in a 24-23 defeat at Detroit on Oct. 19, the Saints’ first game out of the bye. The touchdown he surrendered was a short throw on a third-and-14 that he went for the interception on. It blew up into a 73-yard touchdown that cut into a 23-10 Saints lead with 3:38 to go.
The Lions intercepted the Saints on the ensuing drive to set up what proved to be a game-winning touchdown.
It was the second straight game White gave up a perfect passer rating when thrown at, per Pro Football Focus’ calculations.
White promptly rid himself of the mohawk. Green Bay then happened.
Then, on the Panthers’ first offensive drive Thursday night, he batted away two passes to force a Carolina punt from New Orleans’ 39.
He intercepted Newton soon enough. And, if nothing else, the Saints could no longer doubt that they had a ball hawk on their hands in White — if an unexpected one.
White for his part insisted he won’t get too high about his last two games, similarly to how he didn’t get too low about the pair beforehand.
“I’m just getting lucky, honestly — it’s not anything I’m doing special,” White said. “That’s the way this game works — you have bad games, you have bad plays, but it’s all about the next play. ... You’ve got stay mellow. It’s a long season.”