Tramon Williams saw the ball floating through the chill of the Philadelphia night. And he knew the game was over.
With a well-timed jump, Williams soared skyward and plucked the ball from the air. Interception. Game over. On to Atlanta.
Williams’ end-zone interception clinched the Green Bay Packers’ 21-16 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. It was the biggest play on a night full of big plays for a defense that continually stiffened when it mattered most.
“I think you guys have been learning about this team all year, fellow cornerback Charles Woodson said. “Regardless of what has happened, we’ve been in every ballgame this year. Regardless of who’s been in, we haven’t lost a lot. Those games gave guys experience, time to grow. And a lot of guys have grown up in a short period of time and given us a chance to win. A lot of guys played big for us today.”
None bigger than Williams. With the Eagles driving toward a potential game-winning touchdown, Michael Vick picked the wrong guy on the Packers’ defense to throw a jump ball against. Williams played it perfectly and 6-foot-3 rookie receiver Riley Cooper didn’t have a prayer of making the play.
“I’m sure they thought they had the matchup,” safety Charlie Peprah said. “You know, Riley Cooper, big, tall receiver — but what they failed to realize — and if they did realize, it was a dumb call — but what they failed to realize is that Tramon can jump with anybody in the National Football League. And NBA. So, once I saw it get thrown, I knew he wasn’t going to catch it.”
Williams, a Pro Bowl alternate, finished the season with six interceptions. Make it seven, with none bigger than a game-saver in the playoffs.
“I saw the ball, really,” Williams said, with the ball sitting in his locker. “I covered my man downfield, he really was kind of jogging down the sidelines, and I really didn’t think Mike was going to throw it (to him). But I continued my coverage and when I looked back, I saw the ball being thrown and once I spotted it, I knew I was going to be able to get to it, and once I did I just made a play on it.”
Cooper, who had just converted a third-and-10 with an 11-yard gain, said he initially thought Vick would spike the ball. Vick, however, said he wanted to keep the defense on its heels.
“The last play we had four verticals and I just took a shot at the end zone,” Vick said. “I could have checked it down to the back and I feel like I got greedy and took a shot at the end zone and didn’t throw the right ball I wanted to throw and then it got picked off. It’s a bad way to go out, but, hey, I went out swinging.”
With a game-ending interception for the second week in a row — Nick Collins clinched the win over Chicago last week — the Packers are feeling good about their chances of turning the tables on the top-seeded Falcons after losing at Atlanta in overtime on Nov. 28.
“Any given time, anyone can make a play back there in the secondary,” Williams said. “And that’s what’s so great about it. You’ve got guys up front getting pressure and it makes it a lot easier on us. It’s a give-and-take thing. Everything’s in synch. And hopefully we can continue playing like that.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.
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