“I was just like, ‘How is this guy not in the Pro Bowl?’” Raji said.
Well, Williams still has a good chance to make it to the Pro Bowl as a first alternate this year, but he’s made it impossible to get overlooked again.
After preserving the Wild Card win at Philadelphia with an interception in the end zone in the final minute last week, Williams was an even bigger star in the 48-21 NFC Divisional playoff victory at Atlanta.
He picked off Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan twice on back-to-back possessions late in the first half, turning the tide of the entire game. The first time he took away a potential go-ahead touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins in the end zone, and then on the second one he not only prevented Roddy White from catching a short pass to set up a field goal, he scored a touchdown going the other way to put the Packers in firm control, up 28-14 at intermission.
“Tramon single-handedly took control of the turnover process for us in that first half,” defensive end Cullen Jenkins said. “I can’t say enough about the way he’s played all year, the way he’s played after getting his contact. What he’s done is pretty amazing.”
His first pick looked similar to his leaping grab last week in Philly, but Williams explained it actually came out of a different coverage call. Williams wasn’t man-to-man with Jenkins, as he had been with the Eagles’ Riley Cooper, but when he saw Ryan loft the ball deep, he turned and ran to the end zone.
The pass, on third-and-21 from the 26-yard line with the score tied at 14, had too much air underneath it and Williams caught up to Jenkins. As Williams jumped, Jenkins slipped down trying to stop himself, and Williams made the interception uncontested.
“If he put it on a rope he could have snuck it in, but he would have had to throw it a lot earlier,” Williams said. “The receiver probably wouldn’t even have been in the end zone when he threw it. He could have (thrown the ball more on a line), but it’s a hard throw regardless.”
The second interception was less acrobatic and more a product of instinct and film study. Trailing 21-14, the Falcons faced second-and-19 from the Green Bay 35 one play after linebacker Clay Matthews had sacked Ryan.
Atlanta called its final first-half timeout with 10 seconds left and tried to run one more play to get kicker Matt Bryant a little closer. But the move backfired, because Williams recognized the formation the Falcons were in from film study, and as soon as Ryan began rolling toward the left sideline at the snap, Williams knew he was trying to hit White on a short out route.
“That was an emphasis we had this week on that actual play,” Williams said. “They had done it in the red zone also. Like I said, I recognized it and kind of baited him a little bit, he threw the ball and I made the play.”
The 70-yard touchdown return was the second-longest interception return in Green Bay postseason history, behind only the 101-yarder by George Teague in the 1993 Wild Card game at Detroit.
With three interceptions in the postseason, Williams already is just one off the Green Bay career postseason record of four, held by Herb Adderley, Craig Newsome and Eugene Robinson.
“He’s been making spectacular plays all season,” Raji said. “He’s a shutdown corner. People are throwing jump balls to the man and he’s catching them over receivers who are 6-4, 6-5. Who’s doing that? Not many, and he’s one of them.”
One who has elevated himself into the category of a major playmaker on a defense full of them, no matter how the Pro Bowl voting went.
“Tramon Williams has clearly played at a Pro Bowl level, no question about it,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “To see big-time players step up in prime-time games, that’s what it’s all about.
“Tramon Williams, he’s done it all year. He’s been playing at this level all year.”