MINNEAPOLIS — Naturally, New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams was hard on himself after he ended his stellar rookie season by becoming the victim of one of the most stunning and spectacular plays in NFL history.
“Man, it was just my play to make,” said Williams, who missed the tackle around the Saints’ 35-yard line that allowed Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs to run free for a 61-yard, game-winning touchdown in Minnesota’s 29-24 victory.
Williams had bloodshot eyes, but held his head high as he faced the media, vowing to never let a play like that happen again. He reportedly fell to his knees on the field before returning to the locker room. And he was consoled and supported by several of his teammates, who joined Saints coach Sean Payton in stressing that no one player was to blame for that final breakdown.
“The ball was in the air. I didn’t go attack it. And he came down and made a great play, and that’s just on me,” said Williams, who had lowered his head and shoulder and attempted to drive toward Diggs’ leg — though he whiffed completely — instead of contesting the ball in the air or waiting to wrap up Diggs after the catch. “I just gotta be that guy and go up and get the ball. As a safety back there, you gotta be the eraser. And that was my job. …
“I feel like I was a little early [on my launch toward Diggs]. But at that point, I just gotta make the tackle when he comes down. … There’s only 10 seconds left. I knew the situation. You gotta make sure you make the play. …
“If the play happened different, I would just go attack the ball and make that play.”
When asked how he will bounce back from the play, Williams said, “Man, just overcoming. You can’t let it beat you down. I’m gonna take it upon myself to do all that I can to never let that happen again. And, I mean, if it happens again, then I shouldn’t be playing. But I’m gonna take it upon myself to do all that I can to make sure nothing like this happens again to me.”
Williams was almost one of the game’s heroes with a leaping interception late in the third quarter while the Saints were rallying back from a 17-0 halftime deficit. It was Williams’ fifth interception of the season.
The second-round pick out of Utah started all 17 games he played in this year for the Saints’ resurgent pass defense.
“He’s going to have so many opportunities and he’s going to make so many great plays in the future,” veteran Saints linebacker Manti Te’o said. “Everybody makes mistakes, man — it wasn’t just him. He didn’t lose that game. I could have done a whole lot of things better. …
“He’s a great player and a young player and has a bright future ahead of him and he’s gonna make more great plays.”
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan made similar comments, saying he blamed himself for not getting enough pressure on quarterback Case Keenum, who was able to deliver the deep throw.
And Payton said the Saints had the right call on the play — an outside zone designed to protect the sidelines since a throw in the middle of the field would have ended the game.
“Look, he jumped and went for the tackle,” Payton said. “He’s played well for us all year. It was a timing decision. Obviously he’d like to have that back, but he’s been a good player for us all year.”