The sixth-year safety for the Cincinnati Bengals had a dubious start to the season, playing less than one quarter before becoming the first player to be ejected under the league’s stringent new rules for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Atonement was the goal for Williams in Thursday night’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, particularly after watching his replacement in Week 1 — backup Clayton Fejedelem — preserve that win over the Colts by forcing and returning a fumble for a last-minute touchdown.
Mission achieved for Williams, who had a starring role in the 34-23 victory over the Ravens by collecting eight tackles to go with an interception, sack and forced fumble.
“There was so much on my mind what happened. I was just trying to put it behind me,” said Williams of his eagerness to get back on the field. “With it being a mental week and no practice, I just focused on the game and not what happened in the past. I just wanted to be there for my teammates at a critical moment.”
Like Fejedelem four days earlier, Williams stepped up during a critical moment with the game still on the line for the Bengals.
With Baltimore facing a third-and-10 inside the final three minutes, Williams came in on a blitz and chased down Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, jarring the ball loose just before a pass attempt.
Williams’ strip-sack was recovered by the Bengals and the turnover led to a field goal with 2:25 to play that pushed Cincinnati’s lead to 11 points.
“I was trying to get to him before he threw the ball. I think I ran into someone,” Williams said. “And I just kept thinking, ‘Hold it, hold it. Don’t throw it. Don’t throw it. Yes! , Got ’em!’ I just hoped I didn’t run all that way for nothing.”
Williams had voiced his displeasure over why he was tossed against the Colts, claiming he did not use the crown of his helmet on the hit against Luck and terming the shoulder contact “incidental.”
However, as he was veering down on Flacco for Thursday’s game-saving play, Williams told reporters that another potential roughing call was the last thing on his mind.
“Sorry,” Williams said. “I didn’t think about it.”
Cincinnati features a new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin, who took over for Paul Guenther. The Bengals already have five turnovers in two games after forcing only 14 last season.
“Our job is to get turnovers,” said Williams, who started 26 games in the previous two seasons. “We did well today. … That’s what George always told me. They’ll come in bunches.”