SAN FRANCISCO — Poor Kyle Williams.
He turned over two punts in the NFC championship game — one bounced off his leg in the fourth quarter, the other one Jacquian Williams stripped out of his hands in overtime and that led to the Giants win. The Giants recovered the fumble at the San Francisco 24-yard line and kicked the game-winning field goal four plays later.
Williams turnovers led to ten Giants points. The Niners lost by four. Poor Kyle Williams.
For the rest of his life people will refer to this game as "The Kyle Williams Game."
Not just for his two turnovers that sealed defeat for his team. He had other bad moments, too. At the beginning of the game he fumbled the pitch on a reverse and had to fall on it. At the beginning of the third quarter he had to dive just to catch a punt. A few minutes later he called for a fair catch before there was a Giant within 20 yards of him.
He was filling in as a backup punt returner for the injured Ted Ginn Jr. — the starter. The coaches probably should have replaced Williams with someone else — say Reggie Smith or Chris Culliver — after the diving catch. The moment was clearly too big for Williams. You could almost hear his nervous thoughts as he waited for the punts to fall.
Williams has done this before. On the last play of his Arizona State career he fumbled a punt to lose to Arizona. That was on November 28th, 2009.
Poor Kyle Williams.
Last week, he was one of the heroes. He made the key block on Alex Smith's fourth quarter touchdown run against the Saints. Joe Staley pulled and ran to lead Smith down the field, so Williams had to block Pro Bowl defensive end Will Smith. He didn't just block him — he blasted him. Without that block the Niners probably don't beat the Saints.
But on Sunday, he was the goat. Still, he was not the sole reason the 49ers lost. Their offense didn't play well. They scored just 17 points and the Giants shut them down on third down, (they converted 1 of 13).
"He wasn't the guy," said defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois in the locker room after the game. "It didn't come down to that. That game could have been ended multiple times. We could have ended that game multiple times."
Almost every 49er made a point of hugging Williams in the locker room. Fellow wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Brett Swain gave him the biggest hugs as Williams fought back tears.
"Everybody in here came to me and told me to keep my head up and that it's not on me," Williams said to crowd of reporters around his locker. "We'll move forward. It's one of those things — you hate to be the last guy who has the ball and to give it up that way and to lose a game of this magnitude, but it is what is and we're going to move forward as a team. Everyone in here patted me on the shoulder and said, &‘It's not on you.' I couldn't be happier with the teammates I have in here."
What happened on that overtime fumble from his perspective? "It's just one of those situations," Williams said. "A guy made a play, caught me slipping and knocked the ball out."