Williams has 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and two fumble recoveries so far this season. More impressive, he’s tied for second in the entire NFL with 18 passes defended – same mark as DeAngelo Hall of the Redskins and only one behind Asante Samuel of the Eagles. Not bad company. Williams’ outstanding play has been a key enabler for the rest of the defense. They don’t need to help him with double teams. They can let Williams cover the opposing teams’ top receivers one-on-one, freeing up Woodson to float, blitz and create havoc.
He is certainly having a Pro-Bowl-caliber season, and, hopefully, his game-changing performance on Sunday will help earn him the nod. His interception against Favre with just over a minute to go in the first half was a huge momentum swing in the game – it took at least a field goal off the board for Minnesota, turned into 7 points and a two-score lead for the Packers just before the half, and was followed by a second-half opening drive for another touchdown that put the game out of reach.
Listening to Williams’ post-game interview, I realized that what he did on that play was a microcosm of how he’s developed as a player in the last year. Both that particular play and his season overall are impressive at multiple levels:
- First, recognition. He immediately spotted the formation, and anticipated what was coming. As soon as he saw Visanthe Shiancoe run an out route, he knew the slant was going to Percy Harvin. There are hours of game film that go into that kind of play recognition, but then to be able to implement it on the field during a key play in a divisional opponents’ stadium shows amazing maturity.
- Second, baiting. An over-eager player, upon recognizing the route, would have immediately moved to disrupt it. But, of course, if he had been too close to Harvin, Favre never would have thrown the ball. By sitting back 5-10 yards, Williams baited a 20-year veteran quarterback into making a throw he shouldn’t have made.
- Third, athleticism. Williams’ movement from the point of release to the point of interception is unbelievably fast. To have the speed and strength to make that play against one of the league’s most physically gifted receivers in Harvin is a testament to Williams’ conditioning. I half expected him to take it to the house on the return. As it turned out, he didn’t need to – the offense took care of that for him.
Williams quote summarizes all this simply (and much more succinctly than I): “I read the No. 2 receiver. He did an out route, so I knew the slant was coming. I was just playing off and not going too fast ... but when he threw it I just broke on it.” Easy. Keep it up, Tramon! A few more plays like that and you’ll be going to Hawaii.