Corey White knows he missed out on a golden opportunity.
When the second-year cornerback from Samford intercepted his second NFL pass last Sunday at the San Francisco 44-yard line, sprang to his feet and bolted toward the end zone, and fumbled the football through the end zone for a touchback after reaching the 1-yard line, he knows it was a moment that could have been costly.
It would've given the New Orleans Saints a 14-7 lead in the second quarter against the 49ers.
"You don't want to lose an opportunity like that, to put six points on the board and get momentum going into the next quarter," White said. "I lost a big-time opportunity."
But two things should be remembered:
First, White bounced back and the Saints won the game.
"It's all good," he said. "We still came out with the 'W' so that's all that matters."
Second, he'll probably get more opportunities now that he'll be moving into the starting lineup, replacing Jabari Greer, whose season officially is over. Greer tore the ACL in his left knee against San Francisco and has been placed on injured reserve.
The Saints (8-2) will play Atlanta (2-8) on Thursday night in the Georgia Dome.
"It's going to be challenging," White said. "It's going to be fun. It's unfortunate for Jabari to go down the way he did, him being a great player and a great leader in the locker room. But it's Next Man Up here. So we'll see what happens."
What his coaches expect to happen is a continuation of the improved play he has exhibited this season. White had 32 tackles, three passes defended and an interception in 10 games as a rookie. This year, through 10 games, the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder has 17 tackles, five passes defended and the interception.
The numbers may be a tad lower than last season, but the confidence he has inspired isn't.
"I thought he played well filling in," Coach Sean Payton said. "I think he's been consistent this season. The first thing I'd say is when he's been inside, he has been a very good tackler.
"He's got good size and length, he's strong and very quickly got adjusted to a lot of the snaps he had outside. I think he's got good football instincts as well, and I think that serves him well on gameday."
"Jabari (Greer) was having such a great year," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "He is a great person. We will miss him in the locker room most. But he was having a great year. He was doing everything we asked him to do and then some.
"This Corey White has really been an ascending player. He has been outstanding. He is a physical player. He is a smart kid. He is getting better and better. We've lost some great players along the way and we are so fortunate to have excellent players behind them and that is what this Corey White has been doing, begging for an opportunity. He is going to be great when he gets in there."
White hasn't started a game this season, but he started four last year.
His first one this year will come against Atlanta and quarterback Matt Ryan, who has completed 267 of 404 passes for 2,868 yards and 18 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions.
"Week in and week out, you always look forward to the challenges," White said. "Especially against a premier quarterback like Matt Ryan, that's going to allow you to try to make plays, that's going to put the ball in the air a lot. It'll be fun."
White already shows the savvy of a veteran mentally.
"It doesn't matter what goes down, you've got to have a short memory," he said. "Good play, bad play, no play – you've got to have a short memory. You've always got to move on to the next play."
Move on, and try to create another golden opportunity.