Posted on Mon, Sep. 18, 2006

[size=13pt]Add 'clutch' to his résumé[/size]

Williamson fights through injury to catch key pass on winning drive

Pioneer Press

If not for an official's decision, the Vikings' winning drive Sunday would have consisted of one or two running plays followed by a chip-shot field goal.

Instead, they had to do things the hard way, which apparently will be this team's style.

After an apparent fumble by Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme was ruled an incomplete pass by official review, the Vikings pulled themselves together to drive 78 yards in nine plays and set up Ryan Longwell's second winning field goal in seven days.

His 19-yard kick with 7:28 to play in overtime accounted for the deciding points in the Vikings' 16-13 victory, but Minnesota had plenty of heroes to go around, including wide receiver Troy Williamson, who came up big when it counted most.

Held without a catch for the first half, Williamson injured his left shoulder on his first reception, a 23-yard pass from Brad Johnson, and had to leave the game three minutes into the third quarter.

Williamson proved his toughness at the end, though, by catching two passes on the Vikings' winning drive and notching the first 100-yard receiving game of his young NFL career with 102 yards on six catches.

"I think he's learned how to grind a little bit," coach Brad Childress said. "Sometimes those elite athletes don't fight through a little owie, a little hamstring, a little bump, a little bruise. He's a football player."

Johnson, under fire all day from a fierce Carolina pass rush, was a big Williamson fan before Sunday. This game only strengthened that opinion.

"As the game went on, especially in the second half, we really kind of leaned on him," Johnson said. "He made a bunch of big plays for us, especially at the end."

Williamson got the winning drive started by catching a 9-yard pass, but the best was yet to come.

On third and 10 from the Minnesota 32-yard line, with Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers pulling Johnson to the ground, the Vikings quarterback somehow got off a short pass to Williamson, who broke it 30 yards to the Carolina 38.

"We were just trying to get into field-goal range to seal the deal," Williamson said. "Brad made a great play on the one I caught because he was pretty much by the neck, and he got out of it at the last minute."

Johnson joked that he thought about throwing the pass left-handed, as he did last Monday night at Washington, but decided against it.

The rest was up to Williamson, who took his big play and the game in stride.

"That's what I'm here for," he said. "That's what I get paid to do. It is what it is."

Williamson's catch ignited the Vikings. Running back Chester Taylor got them into field-goal range by breaking an off-tackle run for 33 yards to the Carolina 4.

That was a fitting reward for Taylor, who turned in another yeoman's effort with 24 carries for 113 hard-earned yards.

"We knew it was going to be tough sledding at the beginning of the game," he said. "Luckily, we kept at it."

Don Seeholzer can be reached at [email protected]