‘That’s on me. Gotta do better’: What Chiefs rookie learned from game vs. Bengals

Jeff Dean/AP

Kansas City Chiefs rookie cornerback Joshua Williams made a single post to Twitter the day after Kansas City’s 27-24 road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“That’s on me. Gotta do better,” Williams tweeted Monday morning.

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Williams was in coverage on Cincinnati’s game-clinching play Sunday, coming inches from a pass deflection as Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow found Tee Higgins over the middle for a 14-yard pass on third-and-11.

In the Chiefs’ locker room Wednesday, the fourth-round pick Williams said his Twitter message was part of a personal vow to improve after Sunday’s loss.

“I just want to get better, be able to make those plays for my team next time when it matters too,” Williams told The Star. “I’m gonna hold myself accountable, do what I need to do, stay in after practice, getting with my vets, getting with other corners. We’re just always trying to get better, man. We want to win those games, so anything it takes.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said this week that one of the best teachers for young players is game experience. It’s why he believed Sunday’s loss could benefit secondary guys like Williams after facing off against Burrow, Higgins and receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

“As hurt as they are,” Reid said of his rookie defenders following the loss, “I think that that’s going to help them grow.”

On Monday, Reid specifically talked about Chiefs defenders being better with leverage. Williams admitted that was an area where he could grow Wednesday — with one specific example standing out from the Cincinnati loss.

When Chase pulled down a 40-yard catch in the second quarter, he beat Williams across his body back to the sideline. With the Chiefs’ defensive setup, Williams had safety Juan Thornhill as help to the middle of the field, meaning Williams would’ve been better suited to keep Chase funneled to the inside.

A wide-view replay showed Chiefs rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie executing this on the opposite side of the field against Higgins on a similar out route, blocking that path to limit the receiver’s options.

“If I’d have just known, ‘Stay on the outside. Don’t get too close to him so he can make that move’ ... little things like that,” Williams said, “those are the little things my coaches — (defensive backs) coach (Dave) Merritt, coach Spags (Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator) — always are helping me with and telling me things to work on to get better.”

And while Williams was never more than two yards away from Higgins on the third-and-11 throw at the end of the game according to Next Gen Stats, it was another time when Williams believes he could have been slightly better. On that play, Higgins got by him across the middle of the field when Williams’ help (safety Justin Reid) was to the outside.

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“Even on the inside catch ... holding my leverage and keeping my leverage. Those are two things that are important,” Williams said. “There might be small, minute details. You might be lined up right, but you also have to win your leverage.”

Overall, Williams — he played 66 of the Chiefs’ 72 defensive snaps Sunday — said it was beneficial going against one of the NFL’s top wideouts in Chase.

“He’s a good receiver, man. He competes, and he’s trying to go get that ball. I felt like I was there on a lot of those. Just gotta finish,” Williams said. “Same thing with Tee Higgins. Those are great, talented receivers. With them, you can’t even be a millimeter off.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Cincinnati completed 5 of 6 passes with Williams as the closest defender in coverage for 77 yards. Williams also committed his first penalty of the season (illegal use of hands), which the Bengals declined.

Williams said the game felt like a “playoff atmosphere,” which he believed would only help the Chiefs in the coming weeks.

“You can’t really quantify how big games like this, they almost jump-start you a little bit to get better,” Williams said. “Just those big-pressure — those high-pressure — experiences, they just make you gain a lot more experience a lot quicker than a normal game would.”

Williams is ready for another chance, too. He gave Burrow and Higgins credit for their execution on that third-and-11 conversion late, while also saying he wanted to be prepared for a moment like that ahead.

“Those are two very fantastic players in the league for a reason. They have the name they do for a reason. Those are star players,” Williams said. “I’ve just got to continue to get better — get better at my craft.

“And next time, I’m sure I’ll be able to break that up.”