I fully understand that “eyes to thighs” is an old tackling cliche and I understand that on the final play of the Saints NFC Divisional Round loss to Minnesota, safety Marcus Williams had poor fundamentals. Some would say it is endemic of all NFL tackling. This is very true and more noticeable on bad defenses. What do they practice for on defense if not proper technique. I will not let Williams off the hook missing the tackle. As a rookie who was having an exceptional year for his draft position, proper tackling should have been second nature.
Now, step away from the missed tackle. I want you to see the whole series of events that led to the game-changing catch and run by Stephon Diggs. On first through third down, the Saints not only rushed the passer but applied ample pressure. The Saints had the Vikings on the ropes and ready to head to the NFC Championship game. Case Keenum looked nervous, rushed and tired. With no timeouts, the Vikings needed a long pass to get into field goal range. On the play before the touchdown, the Saints defense was funneling all Vikings players to the middle of the field in order to prevent the receivers from stepping out of bounds and stopping the clock.
The Saints inexplicably called a timeout. While I understand the need for a coach to call a timeout in certain situations, with the game on the line, you want to instill in your players the right fundamentals. However with what was transpiring on the field, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton should have let the game roll. This is where the Saints lost the game. The timeout gave the Vikings time to spot an opening in the Saints defense and Keenum took advantage of this. Diggs was so surprised he caught the ball on the sideline in bounds he almost fell down.
Before we blame just Williams, we should take a look at the whole picture. I understand that Williams should have made the tackle, but there were many other factors that eventually played into his cemented in stone blunder. Who knows what happens if he makes the tackle. Maybe Diggs gets out of bounds or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe Kai Forbath pulls a Blair Walsh and misses the game-winning field goal. What I do know is that Williams isn’t the only man to blame in the situation.