Before You Destroy Marcus Williams…

Jan 15, 2018, 12:00 AM | Updated: Jan 4, 2019, 11:23 am
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

 

by Matt George – Sports 1140 KHTK

Along with their freak-of-nature athleticism, the ability to make split-second decisions while going full speed is what separates professional athletes from everyone else. The conclusion of the New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings divisional playoff game will go down in history as one of the greatest finishes of all time in the NFL. Moments like that, with nearly the whole world watching, are what make sports incredible.

Down a point and desperate to get into field goal range, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum dropped back and delivered a 61-yard dime to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who found himself with empty field between himself and the end zone. Rookie safety Marcus Williams had a chance to make a game-saving play on Diggs, either by forcing an incompletion, or tackling the receiver before he was able to get out of bounds and stop the clock. He did neither, whiffing on a low, outside tackle, and allowing Diggs the wide-open space for the touchdown.

But, before you destroy Williams for his blown tackle, and place all the blame for the Saints’ playoff run coming to an end on his shoulders, take a moment to examine the situation.

Williams chose to tuck in his arms and make a move to the outside of Diggs, hoping to cut the receiver off from the sideline while avoiding the pass interference. It was one of those moments where, on the biggest stage of his young career, Williams made a split-second decision that, having been executed better, could have won the game for New Orleans and punched their ticket to the NFC Championship.

How many times have we seen an aggressive play by a defender in that situation result in a clock-stopping pass interference? Williams was fully aware of the risk he would be taking by trying to go over the shoulder to bat the ball down or force the incompletion. He decided against taking the risk.

So why not sit back and wait for Diggs to catch the pass, then make the tackle? With still five seconds on the game clock when the catch was made, Diggs had more than enough time to make his way to what would have been a wide-open sideline had Williams hesitated. So, by making the move to the outside, Williams had the sideline protected.

The mistake was in the execution. Quite frankly, he just mistimed the move. Had he waited a second longer, or been a step further back, Diggs would have come down with the ball right into the shoulder of Williams, most likely resulting in him being tripped up and brought down clear of the sideline. There wouldn’t have been enough time for Keenum and the Vikings to spike the ball and stop the clock, and the game would have ended with a nice catch and a loss.

Hindsight is 20-20, and ultimately Williams made the wrong decision. But it’s easier to sit back and criticize the young defender for a blown tackle rather than respect the moment for what it was; a bang-bang play where Williams gambled and lost. I am positive that nobody regrets it more than Williams himself. But that’s not to say that he wont have a successful career going forward.

In his first full season with the Saints, Williams finished with 59 total tackles, seven pass deflections, and four interceptions. He played a big part in the Saints making their playoff run. So to suggest that his career is over, and that his reputation amongst his peers is tarnished, is just plain foolish and naive.

Congratulations to the Minnesota Vikings for the incredible victory. And congratulations to the New Orleans Saints for the great season. They have absolutely zero reason to hang their heads after that loss, Marcus Williams included. We as sports fans should be thankful for moments like that, which adds fuel to the flame of sports that we love so much.

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