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'Miracle' rematch: Stefon Diggs, Marcus Williams both want to move on

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Reliving the Minneapolis Miracle (5:10)

Stefon Diggs takes us back to Minneapolis Miracle when he took the game-winning touchdown 61 yards to stun the Saints. (5:10)

No matter what else they do for the rest of their promising young NFL careers, Stefon Diggs will always be remembered as the one who made that catch, and Marcus Williams will always be remembered as the one who missed that tackle.

Both players, however, are determined to make sure the "Minneapolis Miracle" is not the only thing they're remembered for.

Diggs and Williams have both spent most of this season trying to move on from that dream/nightmare -- Diggs' stunning 61-yard touchdown catch as time expired in the Minnesota Vikings' 29-24 playoff win against the New Orleans Saints. The only "walk-off" touchdown in NFL playoff history.

Williams, the Saints' second-year safety, mostly rejected questions all offseason about his missed tackle that allowed Diggs to break free. And when he faced the media leading into Sunday night's rematch in Minnesota, Williams repeatedly said only, "It's another game," when the subject came up.

Diggs, meanwhile, avoided the local media entirely all week -- as he suggested he would last week.

"For me, it was something that changed my life. That play was definitely huge for me," the Vikings' fourth-year receiver said in training camp. "[But] now I've been trying to put it in the past for a little bit. Not really the past, but in the back of my head.

"It was a special moment we will always share -- Vikings fans and people around the city. For me, I've got a new season I'm trying to focus on. Trying to make some better plays."

Both players can help shape their futures in Sunday's pivotal rematch (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). The Saints (5-1) have the early edge on the Vikings (4-2-1) in the NFC standings. But after losing twice at Minnesota last season (in the regular season and the playoffs), the Saints would love to make sure they don't have to return to U.S. Bank Stadium for a fourth time in January.

Here's how things have been going for Diggs and Williams in the wake of the miracle:

Diggs' newfound celebrity

In the nine months following his touchdown catch, Diggs won an ESPY, made Steve Harvey lose his composure with an answer he gave during the "fast money" round on "Celebrity Family Feud" and signed a lucrative contract extension to keep him in Minnesota through the 2023 season.

On the field, the 24-year-old is having a solid season. His 48 catches rank eighth in the NFL, and he has 468 receiving yards and three touchdowns -- though it's teammate Adam Thielen who is really lighting it up with a league-high 67 catches and 822 yards along with five touchdowns.

The offseason was packed with media appearances and commitments for Diggs, whose public persona increased considerably after the play. But for as much attention as he continues to receive for what he does on the field, it's Diggs' hands that have garnered just as much of the spotlight away from it.

Over the summer, Diggs shot several commercial spots for GEICO, starring as himself going about everyday tasks, such as getting the mail and eating a bowl of cereal. There was just one problem: Everything Diggs touched instantly became stuck to him, a play on his own set of sticky hands that have allowed him to haul in tough catches in his rise as one of the NFL's top receivers.

"Those were just my [natural] hands," Diggs joked before describing the adhesive placed on his palms during the shoot. "It was some weird movie stuff. It wouldn't come off for the whole day."

Diggs' hands might be the driving force of comedy in the TV spot, but what's most noticeable is how Diggs is presented through the eyes of his onscreen neighbors.

"I can't believe it," one neighbor says, the other chiming in to finish his sentence, "that everything sticks to Stefon Diggs' hands."

He wasn't labeled as Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and nothing about the commercial spot was associated with his miracle catch. For the average person watching the ad, the only indication of why Diggs is sticking to everything he touches is when one man utters, "He plays football, huh?"

Diggs was simply introduced as himself, and that speaks to just how much weight his name now carries.

To those who weren't familiar with the 2015 fifth-round pick before his "Miracle" catch, Diggs has arrived on the national scene. His celebrity has grown on the outside, where he has become more recognizable.

To some of his teammates, life hasn't changed that much for Diggs.

"I think Diggs was pretty well-known before that play," Thielen said. "He's a dang good football player, and that play doesn't really define him."

Memories of the "Minneapolis Miracle" are everywhere. A giant photo of Diggs after he crossed into the end zone is displayed on a wall in the Vikings' media room. The cleats Diggs wore that game have already been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Shortly after the divisional playoffs, the Vikings filed to trademark "Minneapolis Miracle."

"It was a play you're never going to forget, but at the same time, we have a lot to focus on," Thielen said.

But that momentous catch tells only a small part of who the receiver is in the eyes of those who ran to his side in the end zone to celebrate one of the greatest plays in NFL history.

"Obviously, that play -- at that time especially -- that's a big moment for him," running back Latavius Murray said. "And I'm sure it changes his life in some ways for the better, I would think. What kind of guy he is and the person he is hasn't changed at all."

Williams motivated by 'nightmare'

As you might expect, Williams has spent most of this year trying to avoid the kind of spotlight Diggs has enjoyed.

He faced the media with bloodshot eyes following the playoff loss and vowed, "I'm gonna take it upon myself to do all that I can to never let that happen again." But the 2017 second-round draft pick, who just turned 22 in September, has declined to elaborate on the subject in all interviews he has done since that night.

"You know it's always gonna be in your mind. But you gotta move on," Williams said in one of his most expansive answers during training camp. "It's a new season, a new team. Everybody's trying to be better than they were last year.

"We don't pick up where we left off last year -- we all start over and we start again. Do what we gotta do to make it to the next level."

The most revealing thing Williams did this offseason was share a dramatic workout video on social media with the words, "Turning my NIGHTMARE into my MOTIVATION !! !! !!"

And those close to him said Williams attacked the entire offseason with that type of determination.

"When the season ended, he took about three days off and went right back into training. You know, he has something to prove. He's been approaching it well," said Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. "I think he's going to have a big game [Sunday at Minnesota]. I hope he does. I hope he has about three interceptions. But we just gotta go in there and get the win."

"He responded well, he's been playing well," Saints safety Vonn Bell said. "He's taking it personal. He really wants to show the world who he is, how he's growing as a great young player in this league. He keeps on trending up."

Williams was outstanding as a full-time rookie starter last season -- right up until that final play, when he admittedly launched too early toward Diggs' legs when Diggs went up in the air to catch the pass around New Orleans' 35-yard line. The Saints' defense was determined to tackle Diggs in bounds, which would have ended the game and might have led to Williams' trying to take out Diggs' legs instead of aiming higher. Instead, Williams whiffed and Diggs had a free run to the end zone.

Williams appeared to bounce back nicely this summer, when he was arguably the star of New Orleans' training camp. At one point, he intercepted Drew Brees during practice on three straight days, among other highlights.

The regular season has been a little bit more up and down for Williams and the entire Saints' pass defense, though.

The Saints got torched in Week 1 in a 48-40 loss to Ryan "Fitzmagic" Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and again in a 43-37 win against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3.

They've cleaned up their act a bit since then, but they still rank 31st in the NFL in opponents' quarterback rating and yards allowed per pass attempt.

Williams has not made many blatant errors. But as the free safety/center, they would like him to be a bigger part of the solution. He has one of the Saints' two interceptions this season after having five last season, including one in that playoff game at Minnesota.

"I'm playing all right, you know, I gotta take the ball away more, I gotta be a leader on the back end. That's what I do," Williams said this week. "I feel like [I'm] just getting smarter each and every game. Just picking up the game more day in and day out, learning from [veteran safety Kurt Coleman], learning from Vonn. Those guys are helping me ...

"Because you know the athleticism is there, the work ethic is there. But you can always get smarter, you can always know something else to put you in better position to make plays."

Williams and the rest of the Saints' defense will face the ultimate test against Thielen and Diggs, maybe the most dangerous duo in the NFL today.

So whether it's just "another game" or not, it's going to have to be one of his best yet.