FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes and nuggets from Monday’s New England Patriots media availability at Gillette Stadium:
— After the Patriots smoked the Tennessee Titans in their divisional-round matchup Saturday night, they were able to watch a downright bonkers Sunday of NFL action.
First, the Jacksonville Jaguars upset the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-42 on the road to set up a date with the Patriots in this Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. Then, the Minnesota Vikings knocked off the New Orleans Saints in one of the craziest finishes in NFL playoff history.
Trailing by one after the Saints kicked a go-ahead field goal with 25 seconds remaining, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum lofted a deep pass to Stefon Diggs down the right sideline. Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams had a chance to either tackle Diggs in bounds or push him out and force a field-goal attempt, but he whiffed, taking out cornerback Ken Crawley in the process.
With no defender between him and the goal line, Diggs was able to trot into the end zone for a miraculous 61-yard touchdown that gave Minnesota a 29-24 victory and sent the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game.
After watching that play, Patriots safety Duron Harmon felt for Williams, whom New England saw back in Week 2. He offered some words of advice for the young defensive back in his Monday news conference.
“It was a tough play for him,” Harmon said. “He had a phenomenal year as a rookie safety. When you’re playing free safety, you catch yourself watching other safeties, and he’s going to be a good young player. He made plays on the ball. He had an interception in the (Vikings) game, had a PBU. So he played well.
“It’s unfortunate that that one play is going to define that game for him, but all I can tell him is just keep fighting. Don’t let that play define your career. Always remember that play, because it’ll always push you to keep grinding and hopefully push him to another level.”
Williams, who addressed the play in a tearful postgame meeting with reporters, thanked his supporters in a tweet Monday afternoon.
— If the Patriots hoist the Lombardi Trophy next month, Tom Brady would become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead the NFL in passing yards and lead his team to a championship in the same season.
Only five passing champions even have reached the big game — including Brady himself in 2007 — and all came out on the losing end. Peyton Manning in 2013, Rich Gannon in 2002, Kurt Warner in 2001 and Dan Marino in 1984 were the others.
Brady threw for 4,577 yards this season, marking the third time in his career that he finished as the league’s most prolific passer. He also led the NFL in passing during the 2005 season, which ended with a loss to the Denver Broncos in the divisional round.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports Images