If you know me, you know that I’m a New Orleans Saints fan, and if you have even the slightest idea of what happened last Sunday night in Minneapolis, then you will understand that I refuse to provide a comprehensive recap for the game that I will address in this column.

The basic information that you will need — and about as much as I can bear to relive — is that the Saints lost in a heartbreaking divisional round to the Vikings on a game-ending, 61-yard touchdown reception and run by Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams missed a wide-open tackle and took out another Saint instead of Diggs.

Williams’ blunder, which ended in one of the most heartbreaking losses in Saints history — and that’s really saying something — is a mistake that will haunt him for at least the rest of the offseason and potentially his whole career.

But Williams should not be defined by one missed tackle.

The Saints community could have blamed Williams for the loss; instead, in a true show of sportsmanship, many rallied around him. While countless headlines blamed Williams for the loss, and enough abusive comments appeared on Williams’ Instagram account to cause him to disable the comments section, many players, coaches and fans supported the rookie with billboards, tweets and supportive comments to the press.

Those who credited Williams for a well-played season and forgave his blunder were not wrong to do so. Williams not only was a solid safety for the Saints this season on a defense that went from being ranked 27th to 17th by ESPN in one year, but also served as the defensive back who made the third-quarter interception that allowed the Saints to score a touchdown and cut the Vikings’ lead to 17-14.

In other words, Williams was largely responsible for why the Saints even held a one-point lead in the last 10 seconds of the NFC Divisional Playoff.

After the game, Williams and Head Coach Sean Payton explained that Williams missed the tackle in an attempt to carry out an “outside zone” defense. If Williams had tackled Diggs out of bounds, then the Vikings could have kicked a field goal and would most likely have won the game anyway; making a tackle in bounds was the only surefire way to win. After that moment, Williams’ young legacy has been defined largely by an unfortunate but understandable — and even correct — choice.

Williams’ mishap illustrates the nature of a legacy: It can be unfair and change in an instant, defined by one short moment over a season or career of work.

Consider how Williams’ legacy for the offseason — and even his career, if he does nothing else especially notable — would have changed if those few seconds had played out differently: If Williams had tackled Diggs but tackled him out of bounds, the Saints would likely have lost the game anyway. Instead of Williams being blamed for costing the Saints the 2017 season, however, media attention would have gone to the Vikings’ placekicker Kai Forbath, quarterback Case Keenum and, of course, Diggs, who gave Forbath that field position.

If Williams had missed Diggs but literally any other safety had been positioned in the backfield to guard the end zone, then his blunder would have been all but forgotten in the celebrations that would have ensued as the Saints held onto their one-point lead.

And if Williams had successfully tackled Diggs in bounds, he would have been a small but integral part of one of the most incredible comeback wins in NFL playoff history. Instead of being known throughout the NFL community as the player who missed Diggs, he would be a lesser-known but still important young safety with a bright future ahead.

It is not valid to define athletes by one moment in their career and overlook their work as a whole.

Williams does not deserve the abuse, the blame and the legacy of the one mistake he made on Sunday night. He is one of the reasons that the Saints were in that position to win the game in the first place.

Nonetheless, a sports legacy is often defined by one moment. Whether it is one shining moment or one terrible mistake, the legacy of an athlete is often unfair and unfortunate — and mistakes like Marcus Williams’ will undoubtedly take an unprecedented number of better moments to erase.

But as a lifelong Saints fan, I am still proud of my team’s season. I am proud of Marcus Williams’ accomplishments, and I am looking forward to Williams rewriting his own story in the seasons to come.

Amanda Christovich is a sophomore in the College. THE ANALYST appears every other Friday.

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