It had to be a surreal moment for a number of defensive players for the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday at AT&T Stadium. The Packers were clinging to a 37-36 lead over the Dallas Cowboys, and the Cowboys were trying to mount a game-winning drive in the final moments of the game.
It had to feel like deja vu to players like Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush, A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji. Why? All of those players were on the field in the final moments of Super Bowl XLV, when Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, down 31-25, were trying to do the same thing.
Not only did these two things happen in the same stadium, but also in the same direction on the field.
On both occasions, the defense of the Packers held strong. And in both scenarios, it was the cornerback Williams who made the big play for the defense.
Let's go back in time.
Williams had a great year in 2010. He had 64 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and six interceptions. That performance allowed Williams to be named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad and also get the former undrafted free agent a four-year contract extension worth over $33 million.
But in the 2010 postseason, Williams truly shined. No. 38 had three interceptions for 79 yards and one touchdown. His first pick against the Philadelphia Eagles clinched the game for the Packers, who won 21-16.
The next week on the road against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional Round, Williams picked off two passes, including one just before halftime, in which he went 70 yards for a touchdown. The Dirty Birds never recovered as the Packers won 48-21.
In Super Bowl XLV, the Packers were really nicked up in the secondary in the second half of the game. Charles Woodson was injured in the second quarter when he fractured his collarbone. Sam Shields also suffered a shoulder injury and was used only sparingly after that.
So it was up to a secondary which consisted of Williams, Bush, Nick Collins, Pat Lee and Charlie Peprah to hold down the fort in the second half. And it was Williams who delivered the big play on the final drive of the Steelers.
It was 4th-and-5 and Roethlisberger threw a pass downfield toward wide receiver Mike Wallace. But Williams was able to get around Wallace and knock the ball free from his grasp. After that, it was time for a couple of kneel-downs, and then the Packers could start hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Things have changed a bit for Williams since that magical moment. In the opening game of the 2011 season, he suffered nerve damage in his shoulder which lingered throughout the season.
Even with that injury, Williams had one more tackle in 2011 (65) than he had in 2010; he also added four more picks, including one for a touchdown.
In 2012, Williams' 61 tackles were basically the same as he had in 2010 and 2011, but his interception number dropped to just two.
In 2013, even with two games left to play, Williams has already set a career high in tackles (72) and has recorded 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, 13 passes defensed and three interceptions.
But his biggest play happened on Sunday versus the Cowboys on the very same field where he helped the Packers win Super Bowl XLV.
It was a similar situation. The Cowboys were down by a point and were facing a 2nd-and-1 after Tony Romo completed a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Cole Beasley.
On second down, Romo tried a similar pass to Beasley, but the receiver broke off his route and the ball sailed wide. Williams anticipated the pass and was right there to make a fantastic diving interception.
Initially, the pass was ruled incomplete, but after an official's review, the call was reversed and Williams had saved yet another game for the Packers, much like he did in Super Bowl XLV.
Ironically, earlier in the fourth quarter, Williams had picked off another Romo pass, but the officials overturned that call after a review.
But the pick by Williams with just 1:22 left on the clock stood this time, and once again it was time for the Packers to celebrate a hard-fought victory.
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