The New Orleans Saints defense had done just about everything it could’ve been asked to do for about 50 of the 60 minutes of game action Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It had stopped Cleveland on third downs. It had choked off the running game. It had covered receivers. And it had limited the Browns to just 12 points.
Still, with the Saints trailing 12-10, the defense needed another stop and with 5:10 left in the game, New Orleans produced its best stop of the season.
Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor likely never saw Saints second-year safety Marcus Williams sizing up his throw. Taylor probably didn’t notice Williams lurking, preparing to make his break on the ball. But when Taylor, on second-and-4 from the Cleveland 30-yard line, released his pass attempt for tight end David Njoku, Williams sliced in front of Njoku and snatched away the ball, giving the Saints their first forced turnover of the season.
Not only that, but Williams returned the pick 22 yards, to the Cleveland 18-yard line, to set up the Saints’ lead-taking touchdown drive.
True, the Saints might have gotten stops on second and third down and forced a punt, and driven for the go-ahead score anyway. And they might have been able to avoid the late theatrics – a game-tying touchdown by Cleveland, which then missed the point-after attempt, followed by a lead-taking field goal by Saints kicker Wil Lutz, then a missed field goal by Cleveland’s Zane Gonzalez to seal the Saints’ victory.
But Williams’ fifth career interception gave New Orleans exactly what it needed, when it needed it the most Sunday. And that helped give the Saints their 21-18 win.