Williams, the Vikings' defensive coordinator, was asked about the team's lack of turnovers and proceeded to talk about seeing "loafs" on film as he revisited Minnesota's loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Defenders saw those comments and took exception to them.
"I think a lot of us were upset with that because we didn't see the loafs. I think we've all kind of shown our frustrations with him a little bit about that comment because the bottom line for us is we were playing hard, we were playing physical, we were playing fast," defensive end Brian Robison said. "Bottom line was we were just missing tackles and weren't making the plays we needed to make. That came down to not executing and missing tackles. For him to call us out on loafs, it kind of pissed off a lot of people. But bottom line is we came out today and we gave him what he wanted."
That they did.
The Vikings had allowed four different players – three running backs and a quarterback – to rush for more than 100 yards over the previous four games. In the four games preceding those, they hadn't allowed 100 yards per game to the entire offenses they had faced.
Throughout the last few weeks, coaches and players had talked about missed tackles and defenders being in the wrong gaps, saying those two elements produced sloppy defensive performances. But Williams was the first to call out the effort of the defenders. They saw the comments and responded.
"If there's ever a chance to make a play, guys are going to make it. I call it dumb running. I'm not going to run 50 yards down the field (to chase someone). (Williams) makes a point, though. You've got to play fast," defensive end Jared Allen said.
"When I hear the word ‘loaf,' I think of people more not trying. That's never the case on this team. We've got to play fast and we've got to play fast to the ball. That was the biggest difference (Sunday). You didn't even have to look at the stat sheet to know we were playing good defense today. You could tell."
The Lions entered Sunday's game against the Vikings feeling much better about their running game after a lackluster start to the season in that department. In their Nov. 4 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit running back Mikel Leshoure ran 16 times for 70 yards and three touchdowns.
Against the Vikings, it was a different story. Leshoure was held to 43 yards on 13 attempts, with a long run of 14 yards, and no touchdowns. As a team, the Lions ran 17 times for 60 yards, a 3.5-yard average.
"Guys were flying to the ball. You'd come off a block and the ball was on the ground," Allen said. "… I remember at one point, I'm asking Kevin (Williams), ‘Where have they been running this ball to because I haven't seen too much over here?' We kind of laughed at it, but when you're playing good run defense, that's how it feels."
Both Allen and Robison said they made comments to Alan Williams after they saw his analysis on Thursday.
"I think I made a few comments about it, a little smart-butt comments to him and stuff like that," Robison said. "That's the thing with our team. We're so competitive that if he says things to us, it kind of ticks us off and we want to play better for him. At the same time, we might say some things to him and it might tick him off. It's a love-hate relationship."
Allen wasn't sure if his defensive coordinator heard the players' responsive jabs, but he issued one more through the media.
"We made comments on the side all week. I don't know if he heard them, though," Allen said. "We're not supposed to talk about things in the paper, so we'll just keep that in-house – but I guess that's just for the players."
BLESSING IN DISGUISE?
Running back Adrian Peterson reiterated one of his thoughts from Friday, suggesting that having Percy Harvin on the sidelines might force Christian Ponder to make better reads.
Ponder connected with 10 different receivers (including himself on a deflected pass that lost 15 yards). Peterson once again called Harvin's absence a blessing in disguise after the game.
"We're definitely going to get the ball in (Harvin's) hands and you see Christian kind of forced into giving it to him sometimes," Peterson said after Sunday's win. "So with him being out, other guys stepped up. He was able to get back there and just go through his reads and progressions and find the guys that were open. A lot of guys touched the ball today. Tight ends were definitely a big part of the game. We were able to spread the ball a little bit more today and continue to be aggressive and move the ball."
TE Kyle Rudolph led Vikings receivers with seven catches for 64 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown. Harvin's replacement, Jarius Wright, played in his first NFL game and caught three passes for 65 yards, including a 54-yarder to set up the Vikings' first touchdown – which also went to Wright.
Ponder ended up completing 24 of 32 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns and a 114.2 rating, but he disagreed with Peterson's assessment on Harvin being out.
"Obviously we had to find ways to distribute the ball to people because Percy is such a big part of this offense. I had to find other ways to move the ball, and did it, but obviously we want Percy back," Ponder said. "He's a huge part of this offense, he makes tons of plays. We found a way to do it without him, but hopefully he'll be back against Chicago. If not, whenever; we're glad the other guys stepped up and played well."
ABOUT THAT KNEE
For weeks, Ponder has insisted that his knee hasn't bothered him, despite him wearing a supportive sleeve and limping off the field in Seattle after taking a big hit. On Sunday, he admitted it has been bothering him.
"After the games, I wonder if it's going to be sore in the morning, but during the game, leading up to the week, it's just mind over matter and definitely in the game I'm not thinking about it," Ponder said. "I believe that's how you bring injuries upon yourself. I go out and play 100 miles per hour and what happens, happens."
Ponder appeared more sure of himself Sunday, stepping up in the pocket and stepping into his throws Sunday. When he ran, he also saw more success, including a 20-yard scramble. He took only one sack.
"Just his whole swagger, you could tell he was more confident, got into a rhythm and he was out just playing ball, playing loose and that's what we need from him," Peterson said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.