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Marcus Williams describes how players brought ‘our own energy’ with no fans during NFL’s opening weekend

SHARE Marcus Williams describes how players brought ‘our own energy’ with no fans during NFL’s opening weekend
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New Orleans Saints free safety Marcus Williams (43) intercepts a pass by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (not pictured) in front of linebacker Demario Davis (56) and Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans (13) in the first half of an NFL game in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.

Butch Dill, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s a scene that’s expected to be all-too-typical in this pandemic impacted season: no fans in the stands.

That’s the reality the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a taste of Sunday, as the teams faced each other at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with no fans in sight during the NFL’s opening weekend, because of COVID-19 gathering restrictions.

The result was a 34-23 Saints victory in a matchup of two of the league’s top quarterbacks — New Orleans’ Drew Brees against Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, playing his first game as a Buccaneer after 20 seasons as a New England Patriot.

Former Utah free safety Marcus Williams, in his fourth season as a starter in the Saints secondary, described how the players energized each other in the rather unusual setting.

“We just get hype. You know, we have to bring our own energy today. We don’t have fans. You know, we love to have our fans up there but we had to bring our own energy,” Williams said during a video media conference after the game. “So that’s really what I saw that I was doing and we also had our inactive players up in the stands giving us some due to so we have to bring as much energy where we could today. That’s what we did on the sideline.”

Williams, who had four interceptions last year, got off to a strong start in that department on Sunday, intercepting Brady during the second quarter when Williams leapt high for the pick of the errant Brady pass. He returned the interception 17 yards to the Tampa Bay 35.

“I just saw the ball on air. He (Tom Brady) threw it up on the seam route with Mike Evans. He threw it up. I saw the ball and went to go get it,” Williams said.

The Saints capitalized on Williams’ interception, turning it into a touchdown three plays later. That was a turning point in the game, as New Orleans, which trailed 7-0 early, scored 24 unanswered points to take control.

Even without fans there, Williams — who also had an assisted tackle and a pass deflection — and his teammates celebrated like they normally would, as the defensive players ran to one end zone to take an imaginary photo together.

“We do this all the time, whether it’s in practice or it’s the game, we all keep that same energy, we’re going to keep that same momentum,” Williams said. “That’s just what we do. We, you know, we created that the takeaway, take a picture on the sideline thing. So, today, we just continue to do it, bring it on, and that just gets everybody hype, but get interception and go down to the end zone and take a picture.”

Here’s a look at how each of the Utah ties on active NFL rosters performed during the first week of the 2020 NFL season:

Chiefs 34, Texans 20

Kansas City

  • Marcus Kemp, WR, Layton High: Had a solo special teams tackle while playing 11 special teams snaps.
  • Daniel Sorensen, S, BYU: Started at free safety and had two solo tackles while playing 57 defensive snaps and eight on special teams.
  • Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State: Played eight special teams snaps.

Houston

  • No locals on roster

Seahawks 38, Falcons 25

Seattle

  • Cody Barton, LB, Utah and Brighton High: Played one defensive snap and 19 on special teams.
  • Marquise Blair, S, Utah: Tied for second on teams with seven tackles, including four solo stops, and forced a fumble in Atlanta territory on a fake punt attempt that was recovered by Seattle and led to a Seahawks touchdown five plays later. He also had a third-down stop in Seattle territory that led to a Falcons field goal while playing 55 defensive snaps and 12 on special teams.

  • Bryan Mone, DT, Highland High: Played 15 defensive snaps.
  • Bobby Wagner, MLB, Utah State: Started at middle linebacker and tied for second on the team with seven tackles, including two solo stops and a tackle for loss, to go with two pass deflections. He also had a tackle for loss on an Atlanta third-down play in Seattle territory, which helped lead to a turnover on downs following the next play, while playing all 79 defensive snaps for Seattle and five on special teams.

Atlanta

  • No locals on roster

Ravens 38, Browns 6

Baltimore

  • No locals on active roster

Cleveland

  • Porter Gustin, DE, Salem Hills: Had an assisted tackle while playing 11 defensive snaps.
  • JoJo Natson, WR/returner, Utah State: Had one punt return for 1 yard while playing two offensive snaps and 10 on special teams.
  • Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU: Started at Sam linebacker and had seven tackles — second on the team, with five solo stops — and added a quarterback hurry while playing 54 defensive snaps and 12 on special teams.

Bills 27, Jets 17

Buffalo

  • Taron Johnson, CB, Weber State: Started at defensive back and tied for the team lead with five tackles, including four solo stops and a third-down tackle short of the line to gain, and added a pass deflection while playing 48 defensive snaps and 15 on special teams.

  • Zack Moss, RB, Utah: Scored his first career touchdown in his first NFL game, catching a 4-yard pass from Josh Allen in the first quarter. Moss had nine carries for 11 yards and added three receptions on four targets for 16 yards while playing 39 offensive snaps.

New York

  • Harvey Langi, BYU, Utah and Bingham High: Had six tackles, including five solo stops, and a pass deflection while playing 83 defensive snaps and 16 on special teams.

Raiders 34, Panthers 30

Las Vegas

  • Devontae Booker, RB, Utah: Had four carries for 29 yards, including a 15-yard carry on a touchdown drive and a fumble that went out of bounds, and three receptions for 23 yards. Booker also had a solo special teams tackle while playing eight offensive snaps and two on special teams.
  • Andre James, OT, Herriman High: Played six special teams snaps.
  • Dallin Leavitt, S, Utah State and BYU: Not active for game.

Carolina

  • Tyler Larsen, C, Utah State and Jordan High: Played five special teams snaps.

Bears 27, Lions 23

Chicago 

  • Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah: Started at cornerback in his first NFL game and had six tackles, including five solo stops, and two pass deflections — both on third-down plays — while playing all 78 defensive snaps for Chicago and two on special teams. Johnson broke up a pass in the end zone on the final play to preserve the Bears’ victory.

  • Patrick Scales, LS, Utah State and Weber High: Played 10 special teams snaps.

Detroit

  • Miles Killebrew, S, Southern Utah: Played 25 special team snaps.
  • John Penisini, DL, Utah, Snow College and West Jordan High: Played nine defensive snaps.

Jaguars 27, Colts 20

Jacksonville 

  • No locals on roster

Indianapolis

  • Julian Blackmon, S, Utah and Layton High: Not active for game.
  • Noah Togiai, TE, Hunter High: Not active for game.

Packers 43, Vikings 34

Green Bay

  • Tipa Galeai, DE, Utah State: Played nine defensive snaps.
  • Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: Not active for game.
  • Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU: Had seven carries for 21 yards and four receptions for 21 yards while playing 31 offensive snaps and seven on special teams.

Minnesota

  • No locals on roster

Patriots 21, Dolphins 11

New England

  • No locals on roster

Miami

  • Eric Rowe, DB, Utah: Had five tackles, including three solo stops, while playing 54 defensive snaps and four on special teams.
  • Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU: Had five solo tackles, including a tackle for loss and a third-down stop one yard short of the line to gain, while playing 41 defensive snaps.

Washington 27, Eagles 17

Washington

  • Alex Smith, QB, Utah: Not active for game.

Philadelphia

  • Sua Opeta, OG, Weber State and Stansbury High: Did not play.

Chargers 16, Bengals 13

Los Angeles

  • Michael Davis, CB, BYU: Started at cornerback and had a solo tackle while playing 60 defensive snaps and 15 on special teams.
  • Alohi Gilman, S, Orem High: Played 17 special teams snaps.
  • Sam Tevi, OT, Utah: Started at left tackle and played all 74 offensive snaps for the Chargers and five on special teams.
  • Nick Vigil, LB, Utah State and Fremont High: Had five tackles, including three solo stops, and recovered a Bengals fumble at the Cincinnati 24, leading to a Los Angeles field goal, while playing 58 defensive snaps and 11 on special teams.

Cincinnati

  • LeShaun Sims, CB, Southern Utah: Not active for game.
  • Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, Timpview High: Started at right guard and played 40 offensive snaps and two on special teams before leaving in the third quarter with an injury.

Saints 34, Buccaneers 23

New Orleans

  • Kaden Elliss, LB, Judge Memorial High: Played three defensive snaps and 22 on special teams.
  • Chase Hansen, LB, Utah and Lone Peak High: Played 13 special teams snaps.
  • Taysom Hill, QB, BYU: Listed as a starter at wide receiver and had three carries for 13 yards, one reception for 14 yards on the game’s opening play and completed a 38-yard pass on a double-pass play late in the game while playing 17 offensive snaps and 12 on special teams.

  • Marcus Williams, FS, Utah: Started at free safety and intercepted a pass in the second quarter, setting up a New Orleans touchdown three plays later, and added an assisted tackle and pass deflection while playing all 70 defensive snaps for the Saints and one on special teams.

Tampa Bay

  • No locals on roster

Cardinals 24, 49ers 20

Arizona

  • Kylie Fitts, OLB, Utah: Had an assisted special teams tackle while playing nine defensive snaps and 13 on special teams.
  • Leki Fotu, DT, Utah and Herriman High: Played four defensive snaps.

San Francisco

  • Fred Warner, LB, BYU: Started at Mike linebacker and was second on the team with 10 tackles, including six solo stops, while adding a pass deflection and playing all 82 defensive snaps for the 49ers and one on special teams.
  • Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah: Had four punts for a 44.5-yard average — he had another that was blocked — with a long of 51 yards. Wishnowsky also had a solo special teams tackle and served as the team’s kickoff specialist while playing 14 special teams snaps.

Rams 20, Cowboys 17

Los Angeles 

  • Terrell Burgess, S, Utah: Played 17 special teams snaps.

Dallas

  • Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah: Played 15 special teams snaps.
  • Dalton Schultz, TE, Bingham High: Had one reception on four targets for 11 yards while playing 50 offensive snaps — most among tight ends on the team — and eight on special teams.

Steelers 26, Giants 16

Pittsburgh

  • No locals on roster

New York

  • Jackson Barton, OT, Utah and Brighton High: Not active for game.
  • Kyler Fackrell, LB, Utah State: Had two tackles, including a solo stop, while playing 28 defensive snaps and nine on special teams.

Titans 16, Broncos 14

Tennessee

  • No locals on roster

Denver

  • Garett Bolles, OT, Utah, Snow College and Westlake High: Started at left tackle and played all 59 offensive snaps for the Broncos and two on special teams.
  • Tim Patrick, WR, Utah: Started at wide receiver and had four receptions on five targets for 29 yards. His longest catch, a 15-yarder in the fourth quarter, helped lead to a touchdown four plays later, and Patrick played 50 offensive snaps, a team high among Denver wide receivers.