The Eagles' defense rebounds against the Bears
Cary Williams has 55 total tackles and three interceptions in his first campaign with the Eagles after winning a Super Bowl last season as a Raven. (USA Today Images)
"When my wife said it, then it really kind of sunk in."
- Cary Williams on criticism he received from family and friends
It’s one thing to hear trash talk or rants from fans, opposing wideouts or former teammates.
But when the harshest critiques started coming from his family, Cary Williams knew he needed to listen and respond.
They told him he hadn’t been playing with the same fire, the same intensity, the same passion that had become his trademark in Baltimore.
His brother, his sister, his pastor, his best friend and his wife. All of them had watched the Eagles play this season, and none recognized the team’s left cornerback as the Cary Williams who won a Super Bowl last year with the Ravens.
“When my wife said it, then it really kind of sunk in,” Williams said late Sunday night, after he and the Eagles had scored their most lopsided win of the season, a 54-11 trouncing of the Bears at the Linc. “I had to listen. She’s been following me for a long time and watching how I played. She said I just didn’t have the same aggressiveness that I used to.
“I gave a bunch of excuses why, but then when I looked in the mirror, it just is what it is. I am what I put out there on the field. I just wanted to come out with the aggressiveness and passion for the game that I have.”
Apparently, the best coaching job done last week was executed by Amanda Williams, Cary’s wife. She gave her husband an earful, and he responded.
One week after getting scorched by Vikings wideouts, Williams and right cornerback Bradley Fletcher teamed up to keep the explosive tandem of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in check. Marshall and Jeffery, who had entered the game with more than 2,400 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, combined for just 10 receptions, 112 yards and a touchdown.
Neither wideout caught a pass longer than 21 yards and Marshall’s touchdown came with the Eagles already up by 30.
Williams, already known for being aggressive and physical, had no problem matching the size and physicality of the 230-pound Marshall, a four-time Pro Bowler. Marshall was targeted nine times but caught just four passes.
“I just wanted to get back into character, and that’s just me being out there,” he said. “Guys close to me [have] just been saying, ‘You haven’t been the same guy. You’re not the same guy that you were in Baltimore with the attitude, the ferociousness, I guess to a degree.'
“I just wanted to get back to that. Those people that are the closest to me, that are dear to me, their opinion means something. When they said that, I had to change the perception and hopefully I did.”
This is a guy who was kicked out of a joint training camp practice with the Patriots for scuffling with a New England wideout.
This is a guy who tussled with Panthers wideout Steve Smith in a preseason game.
This is a guy who nearly came to blows with a receiver on his own team during drills in practice.
And his pastor, of all people, doesn’t think he’s showing enough edge? His wife thinks he’s gone soft?
“You’ve got to have that type of nastiness to you to a degree and tell people that you’re not going to be a punk out there or take too much of anything,” Williams said. “It’s a delicate line you’ve got to walk, but at the end of the day you try to do what you can to make your team better and make sure you strike fear in somebody’s eyes.”
The Bears, who had the NFL’s second-ranked scoring offense, managed just 242 passing yards, their fewest in five weeks. Marshall, who drew Williams mostly, managed just 36 yards, his fewest since Oct. 6. He averaged less than 10 yards per catch for the first time since Oct. 20.
Williams’ lockdown bodes well for Sunday’s showdown against Dez Bryant and the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, with the NFC East championship hanging in the balance.
Bryant caught eight passes for 110 yards against the Eagles in Dallas’ 17-3 win at the Linc on Oct. 20 and has 15 receptions for 236 yards and two touchdowns over his past two games. He’s caught four touchdowns over his past four games.
For the season, Bryant has 1,134 yards and 12 touchdowns. With Tony Romo reportedly set to be sidelined by a back injury (see story), the Cowboys’ best threat to keep pace with the Eagles is getting the ball in Bryant’s hands.
Good thing Williams has rediscovered who he is and how he’s supposed to play.
“I’ve been telling people, coming up with excuses, and they really don’t mean anything, like me coming into a new defense, me playing with the Eagles is different,” he said. “To a degree, you could say that, but at the end of the day football is football and I just had to get back to who I was. And I had been neglecting myself for a little bit. but hopefully I could get back to who I am.”