GLENDALE, ARIZ. – It was an unheralded play that could have been one of the most memorable snaps of Kevin Williams’ 12-year career and, who knows, maybe a crowning moment that sent him off into retirement after five All-Pro seasons in Minnesota and one season in Seattle.
All of that might have happened had the Seahawks’ top-ranked defense not blown a 10-point fourth quarter lead by surrendering two Tom Brady touchdown passes in the final eight minutes of Sunday’s 28-24 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
Instead, the first play of the fourth quarter won’t be remembered by Williams as the snap in which he helped the Seahawks win back-to-back Super Bowls.
With the Patriots trailing 24-14 and facing third-and-1 at their 23-yard line, coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels loaded up with a third offensive tackle and were determined to blast away at the interior of the Seahawks defense. But that never happened.
Brady turned and handed off to 250-pound running back LeGarrette Blount. Before Blount reached the line of scrimmage, Williams, Seattle’s starter at nose tackle, muscled his way between the left guard and center. That disrupted the play’s rhythm and clogged the interior so well that it altered Blount’s path. Safety Kam Chancellor was able to swoop in and make the tackle.
Seconds later, the normally stoic Williams was leaving the field pumping his fist. He knew it was a huge three-and-out. And nobody knew or expected that ultimately it wouldn’t matter. Not against a defense that has led the league in scoring the past three years and had mauled Peyton Manning 43-8 in last year’s Super Bowl.
The 34-year-old Williams went to six Pro Bowls during one of the better careers by a defensive lineman playing for a franchise known for having a stockpile of great ones. But when Leslie Frazier was fired and Mike Zimmer was hired, priority No. 1 became getting younger and better on the defensive line.
The Vikings made a late run at trying to re-sign Williams, but his choice came down to Seattle and the Patriots. He said he chose Seattle because of its youth and how it “energized the old dog.”
Halfway through the season as a backup three-technique tackle, where he specialized as a Viking, Williams was asked to move out of position and replace Brendan Mebane, who went down with a season-ending injury. Williams not only stepped in, he helped the Seahawks rank third against the run and post a 9-1 record en route to the Super Bowl.
Playing in Seattle’s defensive line rotation, Williams became a two-down player. Sunday, Williams had three tackles, two of them solo, while leaving the field in third-down passing situations.
There was one big third down that he stayed on the field for. Or at least it appeared to be big at the time.