Coordinator provided ‘kick in the pants'

Defensive coordinator Alan Williams heard about his play-calling all week. At halftime, his defensive players heard it from him and stepped up with a much-improved second-half performance.

Alan Williams took the Sunday sermon from his defensive players and shrugged it off earlier this week.

Payback, however, proved worthwhile.

After a porous first half from his defense Thursday night, Williams had enough. Schemes can only do so much. Eventually, his players had to make plays, something that wasn't consistent enough in previous weeks.

"He was more fired up than I've ever seen him," head coach Leslie Frazier said of Williams' halftime speech to players. "It was good, though, because we needed it. We needed a kick in the pants. We were not doing the things that we had talked about in this short week, how we needed to defend some of the things they were doing. Our guys responded, so that was good to see."

After giving up their third last-minute, game-winning touchdown of the season Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, defensive linemen Brian Robison and Kevin Williams were critical of the play-calling that saw the Vikings rush only three linemen on four of the nine plays in the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown drive.

Thursday night, the defensive line, especially Kevin Williams, was vital to the 34-27 win over the Washington Redskins. Williams had his first multi-sack in four years and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was harassed much of the game.

"Kevin plays hard every week, so I'm glad that things worked out for him and how it benefitted our team, but I don't think what happened last week with him personally and his comments dictated what happened (Thursday) night," Frazier said. "He plays hard and he wanted to win and play as well as he did for our football team and not to try and make up for last week I don't think. He's not that type of person."

For the first 30 minutes, it looked like the same old defense Vikings fans had grown tired of seeing.

In the first half, Washington dominated the stats. The Redskins held the ball for 20 minutes, 40 seconds of the half, converted 7 of 8 first downs, racked up 288 yards, scored touchdowns three of the four times they were in red zone (adding a field goal the one time they didn't convert a third down) and saw Griffin complete 16 of 21 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns.

To describe it as porous might be kind.

Alan Williams likely wasn't that kind.

"There were some emotions in here (at halftime) and we stepped up. We thrived in the second half," Robison said.

"I can't give you no idea of what was said because you couldn't repeat it. You'd have to bleep it out all the time. … We said, ‘Hey, bottom line is we're not executing. We're not making the plays we get.' If you look at it, we had so many missed tackles in the first half with the guys running the ball. We came out in the second half and just said, ‘Hey, we can't miss anymore tackles' and we did it. We were able to pull it out."

At least the players were being honest with themselves about the missed tackles. On one 9-yard run on the Redskins' first drive, the Vikings missed the tackle five times. On their third drive, LB Chad Greenway missed two tackles, contributing to a 32-yard pass play and 9-yard run.

"Looking at myself, the easiest way to correct it, you just have to keep your feet, keep your head up and run through," Greenway said. "It's just basic, fundamental football. I was just missing too many. If you want to play good defense, you can't have those."

He wasn't the only one, but by the time the first half was done, Washington had a 24-14 lead, hadn't punted and had scored on all four of their drives. RB Alfred Morris had run 17 times for 88 yards and as a team the Redskins had 20 rushes for 109 yards in the first half.

"Every defensive coach basically told us we wasn't getting it done and nothing needs to be drawn up. It's just execution," Kevin Williams said. "You can't play any worse than we did and that's just bottom line. We just had to execute."

Jared Allen said players were in position to make tackles and simply didn't in the first half. In the halftime locker room, he said, it was a combination of coaches telling players to step and players telling themselves the same thing.

"They don't have to say anything. You know when you're not executing. You know what's going on," Allen said. "You know when you're missing tackles because you see people rolling on the ground and a play that should go for three (yards) goes for eight. Guys just took it upon themselves to play their assignment."

Said Frazier: "Our coaches really got after the guys about their performance. Alan Williams was really on the defense about tackling and doing what we've got to do on third down to rush the passer. He was really very, very matter of fact about things that needed to change. We made a few adjustments to some things that we were doing in the first half and our guys responded and we needed it. We were not playing good football in that first half and to see the change in third downs and eliminate the points in the second half, that was huge."

When Frazier says they eliminated points in the second half, he wasn't far off. The Redskins scored a field goal on their first drive of the second half, then went dormant. After a 27-14 deficit early in the third quarter, the Vikings scored 20 unanswered points.

Every defender pointed to better tackling, but they were also applying the pressure on Griffin. He wasn't sacked in the first half. He was sacked four times in the second half.

After rattling off drives that went 11, seven, 13, 11 and 12 plays, Washington's next three drives were limited to three, five and three plays before a desperate 14-play drive that ended with three straight incompletions from the 4-yard line to keep the Vikings from another late collapse.

"We've just got to go out and play," Allen said. "We either go out there and get beat down or we step up and make it a game."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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