Why Jamaal Williams’ lone touchdown of the season was controversial

New Orleans Saints running back Jamaal Williams (21) looks on before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Former BYU Cougars running back Jamaal Williams was a key figure in some controversy on Sunday.

He and his New Orleans Saints teammates led the Atlanta Falcons 41-17 in the closing moments of their season finale and had just one yard to go for a touchdown after an interception return from Tyrann Mathieu.

The “unwritten rules” of the game would call for the Saints to run out the clock, but instead, backup quarterback Jameis Winston handed the ball off to Williams, who ran into the end zone for the score.

When the game concluded, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith was visibly upset, and he and Saints head coach Dennis Allen had an exchange.

Allen apologized to Smith in his postgame press conference and said players went against coaches, who called for a knee to be taken.

“That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate,” Allen said. “We should’ve taken a knee.”

According to a story by ESPN’s Katherine Terrell and Michael Rothstein, “Several Saints players wanted Williams or tight end Jimmy Graham to score. Williams hadn’t scored all season, and his teammates attempted to convince Allen to let him have a chance. Allen, however, shot the idea down, saying he preferred to take a knee.

The coach was overruled by the players once they got on the field.”


Said Allen: “We put victory [formation] out there, and guys kind of wanted to get him a touchdown. They did that on their own, and that’s unacceptable. Honestly I’m not sure exactly what was going on behind that other than they wanted him to score a touchdown.”

Saints quarterback Derek Carr observed that it has been a different year for Williams after he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 2022 with the Detroit Lions.

“Just as players, you just love your buddy so much that ... sometimes, in this league, ain’t nothing a coach can do, no matter who it is,” Carr said.

“Players sometimes want to take care of their guys, and coaches end up having to deal with that wrath sometimes.”

Said Williams of his teammates: “They just wanted to get me a touchdown. That’s it. They’re just great people. I appreciate them for understanding and having the awareness and perspective of what’s happening in the game and taking the consequences of what would happen after. I appreciate my teammates for having my back and wanting to get me a touchdown to show the love to me.

“The reason it means so much to me is not because I scored and got a touchdown, but because my teammates wanted to get me a touchdown on the last play of what could be our last game. That right there shows me a lot about my teammates’ character.”