Considering Maxx Williams has many family members and friends who are Minnesota Vikings fans, he picked a good time to have the best game of his NFL career.
The seventh-year tight end, who is a native of Waconia, Minnesota, and played at the University of Minnesota, had career highs of seven catches and 94 yards receiving in Arizona’s 34-33 win over the Vikings on Sunday at State Farm Stadium. He figures to be talking about it for awhile.
“My brother-in-law and some of my cousins and my closest friends, I mean they’re all diehard Vikings fans,” Williams said Monday in a phone interview. “I mean, they should be. They’re from Minnesota, and they all love their hometown team. They love cheering for them. … It’s kind of fun for the rest of this year to be able to talk a little smack to those guys, telling them I beat their team. … So it’s bragging rights.”
Williams said most of the Vikings fans he knows well were actually rooting for him and the Cardinals on Sunday. Still, he relished getting the win in his first NFL game against his home-state team.
Among those on hand to see his performance were his father, Brian Williams, a center who played at the University of Minnesota and for the New York Giants from 1989-99, and his mother Rochele. The two made the trip from the Twin Cities.
Williams’ unexpected big performance played a key role in the Week 2 victory. He entered the day with just eight catches in the nine games he played for the Cardinals last season, and he didn’t have a reception in Week 1.
“I happened to get my number called more than it usually does in the game, and I was able to take advantage of that opportunity,” Williams said.
The Cardinals (2-0) have a number of top wide receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore and A.J. Green. With the Vikings (0-2) focusing on them, did Williams catch them off guard?
“No, not really,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I mean, we weren’t that concerned about him, to be honest with you. They’ve got a lot of other good receivers. The one ball he caught was a tipped ball off (linebacker Eric) Kendricks, you know, so no.”
Zimmer was referring to a second-quarter pass from Kyler Murray intended for running back Chase Edmonds. It was deflected by defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and then by Kendricks into Williams’ hands. Williams then rumbled down the left sideline for a 34-yard gain.
“That’s lucky,” Williams said. “That’s being in the right place at the right time and having a little luck on my side, with that ball being tipped twice. I just happened to be in a good spot to make a good chance at getting the ball, and it fell into my hands.”
Still, even without that catch, Williams would have tied his career high with six catches and had a career-high 60 yards. His best previous statistical game as a pro was six catches for 53 yards for Baltimore in the 2015 season finale at Cincinnati.
“They were playing a bunch of two-high stuff and doubling (Hopkins),” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said of Williams getting seven targets. “We thought we could work Maxx down the seams and across the middle, and he did a great job.”
It’s been a long time since Williams got so much attention on offense. After being taken in the second round of the 2015 draft by the Ravens, he had 32 catches for 268 yards as a rookie. But after that, Williams was bogged down by injuries in some seasons and became more of a blocking tight end. His second most productive season has been 16 catches in 2018.
That was Williams’ final season in Baltimore. He signed with the Cardinals in 2019 and had 15 catches for Arizona that season, then dropped off to eight catches in 2020.
So might Williams’ big game Sunday lead to him being a more focal part of the offense?
“It was just my day in (Kingsbury) feeling comfortable in giving me the ball a little more and (Murray) having confidence in me, but who knows what’s going to happen?” he said. “It just happened to be (Sunday) that some of chips fell in my hand, and I seized the moment.”