Friday, November 15, 2013
Vikings need resurgent rush vs. Wilson
By Ben Goessling
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' second win of the season came on Nov. 7, just four days after the team had blown its third last-minute lead of the year in Dallas and players had criticized defensive coordinator Alan Williams for dropping a defensive lineman into coverage on the Vikings' final drive. Last Thursday, against the Washington Redskins, Williams took his turn to say a few things after the Vikings allowed 24 points in the first half.
Coach Leslie Frazier said Williams was "more fired up than I've ever seen him," but Williams called intrigue over his speech "much ado about nothing.
"(It was) just, 'That’s not what we want to put on tape. That’s not who we are, that’s not what we work towards,'" Williams said on Thursday. "OTAs, camp, all the hard work that guys put in, it’s not showing out on the football field. Real simple message that that’s not who we were and we really need to put on tape at home in our own place who we were and that's what the guys did."
But there was a shift in the second half of the Redskins game; the Vikings sacked Robert Griffin III four times, allowed just three points and Williams brought consistent pressure late as the Redskins were trying to tie the game. The Vikings have long been at their best when they're able to get to the quarterback with their four linemen and cover up for whatever inexperience they have in their back seven. For one of the first times this season, the defensive line got the job done against the Redskins.
"It was fun," defensive end Jared Allen said. "We got to keep that going. Part of it is getting a lead, part of it is being successful on early downs."
As Allen often likes to say, third-down pass rush opportunities are earned by playing sound football on first and second downs. That will be especially true against the Seahawks, who can hand the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch on third-and-short, or take advantage of quarterback Russell Wilson's running ability. The Seahawks are the league's 13th-best team at converting third downs of four yards or less, according to ESPN Stats & Information, but drop to the 20th-best when the distance to a first down is five yards or longer.
And if the Vikings can take Lynch out of the equation on third downs, they'll have opportunities to get to Wilson. He's been sacked 28 times this season -- the sixth-most of any quarterback in the league -- and has been under duress on more dropbacks than any quarterback in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. If the Vikings want to control a Seahawks offense that might be as diverse as any they'll face this season, getting consistent pressure on Wilson would be a good start.
The Seahawks, of course, could get some help beating the pass rush with the return of wide receiver Percy Harvin, who can be dangerous on screen passes, as the Vikings know well. But the Vikings might have also found something when they were forced to move Kevin Williams to nose tackle last week. Williams, a six-time Pro Bowler at the three-technique position, doesn't want to move to the nose on a full-time basis, but he had 2.5 sacks from there against the Redskins. He might give the Vikings an upgrade over Letroy Guion, and Williams hinted the Vikings will keep playing Williams at the nose.
"I don’t think even if (Guion) is healthy (after missing the Redskins game with a chest injury) or how healthy he is," Williams said. "We still expect Kevin to be inside some.”
However they do it, if the Vikings can pressure Wilson with their front four, they'll give themselves their best chance of pulling off an upset on the road.
"If the pass rush is hot like that, I can call anything," Williams said. "And it was hot. The guys did a great job. Last week I said our guys want to rush four and we rushed four and we got home. When it gets home, we’ll call more of it and they were hot. So, when it is hot like that, and we certainly expect it to be, it’s a good thing.”