This is No. 3 on Golden Gate Sports’ list of the Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012. For a quick reminder, please read No. 4
It doesn’t feel good to know people want you dead. Ask Casey Anthony or wide receiver Kyle Williams. Williams, the 3rd year pro and son of Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams, did not gain infamy for his lineage but for his mistakes in the 2012 NFC Championship. If not for his untimely turnovers on special teams, San Francisco would have likely appeared in their 6th Super Bowl, but the athlete’s fundamental errors caused the Bay Area to rise in uproar.
For fans who don’t relive the game every night, Williams’ first mistake occurred with 11 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. The 49ers led 14-10 and forced the Giants to punt, and a short kick deflected off the return man’s leg. Williams (in his first Hollywood audition) pretended he never touched the ball, but a New York challenge awarded possession to the Giants, who scored a touchdown 7 plays later.
Williams’ next blunder ensued five minutes into overtime, and cemented his name as America’s clumsiest football player. The 2010 6th round pick fielded the punt (phew!) and took a few strides before Jacquian Williams stripped the ball and Devin Thomas recovered. The Giants found themselves in field goal range and booted the game winner, as viewers in Candlestick Park ripped out their Jheri curls.
The excruciatingly painful loss ended a magical San Francisco run that produced a 13-3 regular season record (ending an 8 year playoff drought) while showcasing the rebirth of Alex Smith and emergence of head coach Jim Harbaugh. There would be no fairy tale ending in Bruce Lee’s hometown.
As for Williams, the horror story was only beginning. Frustrated fans used Twitter to send the receiver death threats:
Williams’ teammates came to his defense. David Akers tweeted:
Patrick Willis added:
Online bullying is obviously unnecessary, but Willis made a solid notion. Was Williams solely responsible for the loss?
While Williams accepted responsibility, San Francisco’s offense converted 1-13 3rd down opportunities, due in part to Smith’s inability to complete half his passing attempts. The 49ers made a single appearance in the red zone and failed to score.
Williams’ turnovers were avoidable and resulted in opposing scoring drives, but few knew that the Arizona State alum sustained a shoulder injury in the 3rd quarter. The receiver continued to return kickoffs and punts because Pro Bowl alternate Ted Ginn Jr. was inactive with his own health problems.
Combined with the damp conditions, it seemed New York successfully and timely exploited San Francisco’s biggest weakness. Credit to the victor was largely ignored, since the blame game is an American pastime.
So if you were curious about our scapegoat, he is alive and (somewhat) well. Despite endless calls for his release, Williams re-earned his roster spot in 2012 and carved out a larger role in the passing attack, surpassing Ginn Jr. and 1st round selection A.J. Jenkins on the depth chart. The veteran suffered a torn ACL in Week 12 which ended his season, but the receiver has recovered from his darkest moments. Championship ring or not, the NFL is simply a game and Williams has nothing to fear anymore.
Stay tuned as we continue our countdown on December 29 with No. 2 on our Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012