EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams said he didn't take Brian Robison and Kevin Williams' criticism of his late-game play calls "in a negative way at all" after Sunday's 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, saying their frustration was a sign of how badly they want to win.
The Vikings dropped one of their defensive linemen into coverage on four of the nine plays on the Cowboys' 90-yard march to win the game. Minnesota only pressured Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo once on the drive, according to ESPN Stats & Information, after getting to him on 36 percent of his dropbacks before that. Afterward, both Williams and Robison criticized the decision, saying the Vikings had been getting to Romo effectively all day.
Williams said the Vikings rushed three players on four plays partly to deal with the Cowboys' screen passes; on two of those plays the Vikings dropped Everson Griffen (who might be their quickest lineman) into coverage with the hope he could make an open-field tackle if Romo got rid of the ball quickly.
"We’ve been plagued by screens all year long. Our rush was heating them up for sure so the balls were coming out extremely quick," Williams said. "We were getting there, even the series beforehand. We heated them up in the first half, but they were max-protecting and they were throwing screens. That first play [of the final drive], just like we wanted to, Everson was dropping and ran to the screen. That series, I think they ran three of them. It just so happens we dialed it up right. Our guys like to be rushing. They don’t want to be dropping. I’m fine with that. Everywhere I’ve been it’s been like that."
It's worth noting that on one of the two times the Vikings did bring extra pressure, rushing five on the Cowboys' fifth play of the drive, Romo hit Dez Bryant for a 34-yard gain on a slant, though Williams said he wasn't interested in using that play to prove his point. "It’s not to say, hey, I’m right or someone else is right or someone is wrong," he said. "That doesn’t solve or get what we’re trying to get done, which is to win ballgames."
Williams said he's heard similar concerns from pass-rushers before, adding Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis never liked being dropped into coverage when Williams worked with them in Indianapolis. He said he reviews his scheme for each play when the Vikings review film on Mondays, explaining why he called what he called, and judging from what defensive end Jared Allen said on Tuesday -- asking for "yes or no" questions because "anything more than that will get us in trouble" -- it's safe to assume the Vikings' coaches made an effort to close ranks when the team assembled after the game on Monday.
What remains to be seen is whether players will raise further issues with the Vikings' scheme in future weeks; several aired frustrations privately after the team lost a Week 2 game to the Chicago Bears in similar fashion, but Sunday was the first time players offered public criticism of the game plan. At least at this point, though, Williams says things haven't reached a threshold that would concern him.
"Good players ask why. ‘Hey coach, why did you make this decision? What were you thinking?’" Williams said. "I have no problem whatsoever about a guy asking me why. We explain it, we talk about it and we move on."