Kevin Williams watched the arc of the ball from the sideline. He saw it float down the middle of the field and into his teammate’s arms for a touchdown.
For a moment, Williams froze as bedlam ensued around him.
“I still didn’t believe it, I didn’t know what to do,” he said, laughing. “I was like, ‘So we won, right?’ ”
Yes, impossibly, remarkably, stunningly, the Seattle Seahawks snatched a Super Bowl ticket from the Green Bay Packers’ grasp with one final blow in a long sequence of plays that had to happen in the final minutes for that outcome to materialize.
The Packers giveth, the Seahawks taketh.
And now Williams, the longtime Vikings leader and defensive stalwart, finally gets to experience something missing from his decorated career: A chance to play in the Super Bowl.
Williams signed with Seattle last summer after his 11-year tenure with the Vikings ended in a mutual parting of ways. The team wanted to get younger at defensive tackle. Williams sought an opportunity to win a championship before he retires.
His dream remained alive with one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history.
“To play all this time and finally to be going, it’s huge,” the 34-year-old Williams said by phone from his Seattle home late Sunday night. “But I want one more confetti bath. I don’t want to just be satisfied with this.”
Williams paused to process the moment after Jermaine Kearse’s 35-yard touchdown catch in overtime gave the Seahawks a 28-22 victory. His teammates dashed toward the end zone to celebrate. Williams eventually joined them in crazed excitement, like a kid on the last day of school.
“I was like, ‘Hey, let me take off running, too,’ ” he said.
He’s also been on the other side of it. Williams was on the field when the New Orleans Saints kicked a winning field goal in overtime in the 2009 NFC Championship Game.
The Vikings self-imploded that day by committing five turnovers. The Seahawks committed five turnovers on Sunday. That wasn’t lost on Williams.
“It felt like a déjà vu moment,” he said.
Except the outcome, of course.
Williams knows how the Packers feel today, as well. The Vikings dominated the Saints statistically in ’09. They should have won that game. But they kept shooting themselves in the foot and it cost them dearly.
Williams hasn’t forgotten the sting of that blown opportunity, though he noted Sunday’s outcome helps “ease the pain from that loss.”
“But only February 1 [Super Bowl] will take it away,” he said.
The Packers will be haunted by their performance for a long time. Their problems began with Mike McCarthy’s ultraconservative play-calling. His tentative approach kept the door open for a Seahawks rally.
The blame stretches a mile long though. The Packers gave up a touchdown on a faked field goal and allowed Seattle to score a two-point conversion on a rainbow pass that hung in the air for an eternity. Morgan Burnett inexplicably slid to the ground on an interception return despite having room to run. And then Brandon Bostick botched an onside kick.
It was a tic-tac-toe butchering of a Super Bowl bid, their version of 12 men in the huddle.
“I think if we didn’t get that onside,” Williams said, “that’s the last straw. But we did and there was still life.”
That game stretched the limits of their positivity. The Seahawks looked doomed until those last five minutes. Even some of their fans left the stadium at that point.
“We just kept repeating, ‘Don’t give up, let’s keep fighting, play for each other,’ ” Williams said.
And now the popular former Viking known as “Ticket” gets to experience a Super Bowl week, a nice story for a true pro at the end of a stellar career. He would’ve loved for this to happen in a Vikings uniform. He meant a lot to that organization and should be a shoo-in for the team’s Ring of Honor someday.
“I gave everything I had while I was there,” he said.
Ironically, Williams considered signing with the New England Patriots before joining Seattle. Now, he will face them in the Super Bowl as the Seahawks’ starting nose tackle.
Williams was flooded with congratulatory text messages after the game, most of them from former teammates and members of the Vikings organization from all departments.
“That means a lot to me,” he said.
Williams celebrated with a quiet night at home. He grabbed some takeout, relaxed with his family and planned to be in bed well before midnight.
“Once I lay down,” he said, “it will probably sink in, man, I’m going to the Super Bowl.”