He also made one of the biggest — and craziest — catches of the game.
Williams, who grew up in Waconia, Minnesota, and played at the University of Minnesota, posted career-highs with seven catches for 94 yards in the Cardinals’ wild 34-33 win over the visiting Vikings on Sunday, September 19.
He also made an incredible grab at a time when Arizona’s offense was sputtering and in need of a jolt.
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With the Cardinals trailing 20-7 midway through the second quarter, quarterback Kyler Murray tried to connect with running back Chase Edmonds on a short pass over the middle. The pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage by Vikings defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, then caromed off another defender before finding its way into Williams’ hands.
The 6-foot-4, 252-pound tight end then rumbled across midfield, picking up 34 yards before being brought down at the Vikings’ 41-yard line. Murray later capped the 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run.
“Really, that defection kind of got us going,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the game. “We were really stagnant offensively. That got us going and I think woke us up a little bit, so that was a huge play in the game.”
Williams attributed the improbable catch to “luck.”
“It was supposed to be a little play-action pass,” he said after the game. “The ball got tipped, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, got a chance to make a play and just seized the moment.”
Williams, 27, was the Cardinals’ second-leading receiver against the Vikings behind rookie Rondale Moore, who finished with seven catches for 114 yards — including a 77-yard touchdown with 1:33 left in the first half. Williams’ previous single-game highs for catches (six) and receiving yards (53) came back in 2016 when he played for the Baltimore Ravens.
Kingsbury said the way the Vikings were doubling receiver DeAndre Hopkins created opportunities in the passing game for Williams. Hopkins had a quiet day by his standards, finishing with four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.
“We thought we could work Maxx down the seams and across the middle, and he did a great job,” the Cardinals coach said.
Williams said he treated the matchup with the Vikings like “just another game,” while noting he now has some bragging rights with his family and friends, many of whom are “die-hard Vikings fans.”
“It just happened today that some of the balls came my way,” he said.
‘We Found a Way to Win’
Kingsbury tossed another pass Williams’ way in the locker room after the game, awarding the tight end a game ball for his career-best performance.
Murray, Moore and kicker Matt Prater also received game balls for their roles in helping the Cardinals improve to 2-0.
“It wasn’t pretty today, but we found a way to win,” Williams said. “Last year or the year before, we just never found a way to win these games. It’s a great feeling this year to be 2-0 and find a way to win that kind of game behind K1 and playing as his team.”
Murray had another huge day for the Cardinals, throwing for 400 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 31 yards and another TD. He became the first player in NFL history with at least three passing touchdowns and one rushing TD in each of the first two games to start a season.
It was also the 17th rushing touchdown of Murray’s career, breaking the franchise record previously held by Jim Hart for rushing TDs by a quarterback.
Williams called Murray “a different guy this year.”
“It’s his confidence this year,” he said. “He’s really taken over the offense, really taken over the team. He’s being the guy that we need him to be to make those next steps.”
Prater Sets Franchise Record with 62-yard FG
Another big turning point for the Cardinals in their home-opener came on the final play of the second quarter, when Prater booted a franchise-long, 62-yard field goal to give Arizona a 24-23 halftime lead.
The booming kick topped the previous team record of 61 yards set by Jay Feely in 2012.
“I thought the end of the half was a huge swing to be able to go down there and Matt hits a 62-yarder and gives us that momentum,” Kingsbury said. “And we were able to hang on at the end.”
It’s the latest record for Prater, 37, who also owns the longest field goal in NFL history: a 64-yarder in 2013 while kicking for the Denver Broncos.