The New Orleans Saints were 10 seconds away from a date with Philadelphia in the NFC Championship, 10 seconds from keeping their dream season alive.
But then Case Keenum found Stefon Diggs, and then Marcus Williams couldn’t wrap him up. In fact, Williams whiffed completely, as Diggs raced 34 yards untouched for a walk-off 61-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings a 29-24 win over the Saints.
In Minnesota, bedlam. In New Orleans, devastation.
Afterward, Williams, a rookie safety, was distraught.
“He shed tears,” NewOrleansSaints.com writer John DeShazier said on Ferrall on the Bench. “He’s not just a young kid, but a competitor and he knew the gravity of the situation even though he’s a rookie and had never been in the NFL playoffs. He understood exactly what had happened. He shed some tears and he was upset about it.”
Williams, to his credit, stood at his locker and answered all media questions. He took responsibility for the play and vowed to work harder so it wouldn’t happen again.
“He faced the music,” DeShazier said. “He took full responsibility, which is what you’d expect anybody to do, and he handled it well. You know how it is with social media. You’ve got people who will really sympathize with him and say, ‘Hey, great season. I appreciate everything you’ve done.’ And then you’ve got your knuckleheads who are going to really jump on him and say he lost the game solely.”
In reality, he didn’t. Williams had five tackles, two passes defended and a key interception that helped the Saints get back into the game – a game they trailed 17-0 at halftime.
DeShazier offered perspective on the loss.
“If you would have polled any Saints fan prior to the season after three 7-9 seasons and told them you’re going to win the division, you’re going to win the Wild Card game, and with 10 seconds left in the divisional playoff game, you’re going to have a chance to win it – all of them would have taken it,” DeShazier said. “So I think Marcus will emerge stronger for it. It’s one of those plays that, let’s be frank: It can haunt you or it can drive you to be better and greater. He seems to be the kind of kid who’s got the fortitude and drive to be better and greater. So let’s hope that happens to them. . . . As for the team, it was a gut punch. It was one of those where you feel like somebody reaches inside and pulls out a piece of your soul.”