No one should ever accuse Tramon Williams of not being bright. The Green Bay Packers cornerback knew he had a lot to learn coming out of college as an undrafted free agent. Picking film junkie Charles Woodson as a tutor was likely a $33.074 million decision as the fourth-year player earned a four-year extension with his play this season.
Williams picked off two passes in the 48-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs. The second, a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown, began the rout as time expired in the first half.
Williams said the second interception came purely off of film study. He recognized the situation and knew Matt Ryan would throw a short out to Roddy White. He baited the Pro Bowl quarterback for a moment and then broke on the pass.
“I’ve got quite a few (interceptions) off of film study this year,” Williams said Monday. “Probably about half of them I got (this year) off of film study. The rest just based off of instincts.
“I’ve always put effort into film study. You just learn more and more every year. I’ve learned a new way to study. That’s what I’m basing my studies off of this year. I study about three different ways. Each way you learn something different, and that’s what’s been helping me out.”
Williams leads the league with three postseason interceptions and finished the regular season tied for No. 5 with six. Al Harris’ knee injury pushed him into the starting lineup last year and Williams has been a terror for opposing quarterbacks in 2010.
“The more you’re out on the field, the more you recognize things,” Williams said. “My understanding of the game has gotten better. When the offense goes into a game, they have a certain game plan – a certain number of plays they’re going to run for certain situations.
“If you kind of pay attention throughout the game, they’re going to repeat some of those same plays. That’s where you make plays at.”
Coach Mike McCarthy said he’s not the least bit taken aback by Williams’ ascension.
“There's no surprise that Tramon is turning into one of your best players, because in my experience in this league the smartest players are always your best players,” McCarthy said. “Tramon's the guy that's always in the front row with his book taking the notes. He's been doing that since he arrived here.
“He has a total understanding of the defensive system. The film study, now the understanding of how the offenses are trying to attack him as far as the leverage he's playing on a particular route.”
Studying, however, doesn’t end when Williams leaves the facilities. That’s just a small part of his work.
“I’ve got a computer with the same programs that they have (at the offices) for us to watch film,” Williams said. “I take it home and I’m able to break down film the same way that they have it broken down here at the stadium.
“I go home, play with my son for a little bit and then just go in my office and watch film for 2-3 hours. The time flies when I’m watching film. That’s basically my day. It’s a 24-hour thing. Go home, play with my son for a little bit, watch film for a while, go back and play with my son then go back and watch more film until maybe 12, 1 o’clock in the morning. Go to sleep and wake up and go to practice. That’s basically my day.”
Was that a prediction?
McCarthy continued to sing Williams’ praises during his press conference Monday, but also dropped in a quick reference to the Super Bowl.
“When these playoffs and the Super Bowl are completed, everybody in the country is going to know who Tramon Williams is,” McCarthy said. “That's the type of level that he's playing at. So he's been very consistent. He's making the big plays when the opportunity presents itself.”
Former Ohio State star A.J. Hawk said the Packers-Bears rivalry resembles the yearly matchup between Michigan and Ohio State. Hawk grew up in Ohio, was selected No. 5 overall by the Packers and has played in 10 games against the Bears.
“It's pretty similar,” Hawk said. “When I first got here, I noticed that the feeling throughout the week of each time we played the Bears was really how it was when we were playing Michigan.
“This one is obviously amped up a little bit more being a championship game.”
Not a one-man band
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is normally the first name mentioned whenever the defense is the topic of conversation – not surprisingly considering he’s a defensive MVP candidate. He has been a beast in his first year with the Bears, posting 54 tackles, 8 sacks, 9 passes defensed and 2 interceptions.
Packers center Scott Wells, however, warned against focusing solely on Peppers.
“Anthony Adams I think is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league,” Wells said. “If you watch film, he's always around the pile. He does an excellent job playing with low pads, creating penetration, getting penetration, so he's one player that I have to be familiar with, because he lines up over the center most of the time.
“The other guy, (Israel) Idonije, does an excellent job on that side. He kind of gets overlooked because of Peppers and what he brings to that package. Really their front four I think outstanding defensive line, well- coached. Tommie Harris is playing well here towards the end of the season. They do a great job holding their gaps and playing their scheme.”
Linebacker Frank Zombo was the only player McCarthy noted Monday. He said Zombo would be tested Tuesday. His availability for Wednesday is uncertain.
Zombo has missed the last five games with a knee injury.
Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre said in an e-mail to ESPN’s Ed Werder that the Packers were “by far” the best team remaining.
“(Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers is the best QB and the receiving corps is the best ever, maybe,” Favre said in the e-mail. “But (defensive coordinator) Dom (Capers) and the defense gets the MVP award at this stage.”
Favre filed his retirement papers with the NFL on Monday and told Werder he has no ill feelings toward the Packers organization.
“”There is no bitterness. I’m happy for them and very happy and content with my legacy,” Favre said in the e-mail. “I think they will win it all! I hope they do, if you are wondering.”