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Marcus Williams protecting the back end in New Orleans Saints secondary

Interception against Tampa Bay was his team-leading fourth this season

Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 11 of the 2019 NFL season.
Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 11 of the 2019 NFL season.

Marcus Williams says he's just a piece of the puzzle, and perhaps considers himself no more or less important than any of his teammates to the New Orleans Saints' success on defense.

But the third-year free safety certainly appears to be a significant piece.

In Sunday's 34-17 victory over Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium, Williams had a hand in two turnovers, each of which led to touchdowns for the Saints (8-2).

In the first quarter, with 10 seconds left, his tackle jarred loose a pass that Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard was attempting to pin to his back, and linebacker Demario Davis swooped in for his first interception since 2013. On the next play, Drew Brees threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas.

And in the fourth quarter, Williams book-ended the Saints' pick-fest when he came up with New Orleans' third (of four) interception, and returned it 55 yards for his first NFL touchdown.

"It felt great, being to have the opportunity to get in the end zone for once," Williams said. "I never had a pick-six in college and to finally get one in the NFL is a dream come true."

Dreamy, but perhaps, inevitable.

It was Williams' team-leading fourth interception of the season (he has half of New Orleans' eight interceptions), his second in as many games and raised to 10 his number of career interceptions. Three more would get him into the top 10 in franchise history.

"I just feel like I'm in the same groove I've always been in," he said. "Just doing my job, doing my 1/11th for the team whenever I can to help our team out."

In terms of pass defense, that has meant being part of a unit that has limited the last seven opponents to 205 passing yards per game and eight touchdowns – with seven interceptions and 17 sacks.

On Sunday, the approximation of that was a swarm of Saints, with safety Vonn Bell and cornerback P.J. Williams having interceptions along with Davis and Marcus Williams.

"He's someone that can get out of the middle quick," Coach Sean Payton said of Marcus Williams. "He's got real good ball skills. He's smart.

"It's great to see, two weeks in a row, a play where he's able to (intercept a pass). (And) yesterday, score a touchdown. I think he's got very good instincts and when we're winning up front, and getting the quarterback off his spot, it's kind of a complimentary back and forth.

"(It's) chicken or the egg. The secondary's plays then get enhanced. Their ability to break on balls, all of that. I thought we had a real good plan going in and guys executed it well."

Film study, Williams said, has made a significant impact for him.

"Preparation is the key, really," he said. "Just being able to know what's going to come. And anticipation comes from that as well. If you know what's going to come, you anticipate the play and those plays will come to you. The schemes that we're in also helps with that."

In fact, Williams ideally was positioned to catch Jameis Winston's overthrown pass Sunday – the Saints had a snug vise on receiver Mike Evans, with coverage underneath and over the top. From there, teammates escorted him down the left sideline as Williams easily outran his pursuers.

He said he knew what was coming on the play.

"Yeah, we've been watching them do that on film, so I saw what was going to happen," he said. "We always talk about 'battle in the back end,' and we just dissected the play. I went to do my assignment. If you do your assignment the play will come your way, and that's what happened (Sunday)."

Two consecutive Sundays, and four times overall this season, it has happened, to the benefit of New Orleans. Williams' placement in the puzzle makes the picture more complete.

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