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Coverage lapses lead to benching for Seahawks’ Cary Williams

Vance McDonald's 19-yard touchdown catch was among the plays on which Cary Williams was beaten. (AP)
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Cary Williams got beat and then he got benched. Afterward, he didn’t seem to know what exactly led to his lapses in coverage nor whether or not they have permanently cost him his job as Seattle’s starting right cornerback.

“It’s just one of those things where I feel like I could be better and I wasn’t necessarily there today, especially in the second half,” Williams said with a hushed voice while standing at his locker long after Seattle’s 29-13 win over San Francisco. “I don’t know for what matter it was or whatever it was. Maybe I was overthinking it.”

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Williams was pulled late in the third quarter, right after 49ers tight end Vance McDonald gained 36 yards on a completion that put San Francisco in the red zone. Williams appeared to be the guilty party on that play as well as on McDonald’s 19-yard touchdown reception just before halftime.

Seattle moved DeShawn Shead to right cornerback and replaced him at nickelback with Marcus Burley. Williams never returned to the game, which marked the low point of his first season with the Seahawks.

Coach Pete Carroll characterized the reasoning for the move as a desire to give Shead a shot at cornerback, but his comments also made it clear that Williams’ benching was the culmination of some prolonged issues in coverage. He was beaten deep twice in the first quarter against Cincinnati, leading to a demotion of sorts in that game as Seattle then put Richard Sherman on Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. Williams was also in coverage last week on Arizona’s first touchdown pass.

Getting beat deep is a cardinal sin in Seattle’s defense, one that Williams has apparently committed one too many times this season.

Perhaps this move may have come earlier if Seattle’s depth was better at cornerback. Tharold Simon is on injured reserve and Jeremy Lane has yet to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list. Tye Smith is a rookie fifth-round pick who does not appear to be ready to contribute regularly on defense. Burley is more suited to play the slot while Shead has been Seattle’s best nickelback this season, which is an indication of what it must have taken for the Seahawks to bench Williams.

Asked what Seattle wasn’t seeing from Williams, Carroll said: “There have been some plays that were made that we just wanted to see some improvement on, and see some carry-over from weeks past.”

Earlier this season, Williams talked about the difficulty he had in nailing down the technique that the Seahawks teach their cornerbacks, which is much different than what he’s become accustomed to from his previous NFL stops in Tennessee, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Williams didn’t believe that improper technique led to his issues on Sunday. He said he was thrown off by some strange plays from San Francisco’s offense, which looked much different to him than when the two teams met earlier this season.

“It was just more of a mental thing than anything,” he said. “Maybe, like I said, I was thinking about things too hard. Maybe I was looking into it a little different and maybe my eyes weren’t necessarily in the right place. I don’t know why. I felt like I was prepared pretty well for it, but for some reason I didn’t go out there and play my best ball today.”

Asked if he expects to reclaim his starting job next week, Williams said: “I’m definitely going to go out there and compete. This is what we talk about, competing each and every week. It’s something that we’ll have to find out when we get there. There wasn’t necessarily more details about it, but we’ll just find out.”

Williams said this is the first time in his eight NFL seasons that he’s been benched. He seemed to take it in stride.

“I’m a resilient guy. I’m a guy that’s going to go out and compete as best I possibly can and I’m not going to let this thing down me at all,” he said. “It’s just about me getting back to being the player that I am and playing the football that I know I’m capable of.”