Left end Spencer Johnson should be able to return from a knee injury Sunday in Carolina, meaning the switch back to a 4-3 base will be an option. The 4-3 certainly will be used but the Vikings coaches liked what they saw of the 3-4 in a Week 6 loss at Chicago and last Sunday's victory over Green Bay doesn't appear to have changed their opinion.
"I've had so much experience with it before," said defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who has used the 3-4 in previous coaching stops. "If the guys execute it correctly, I knew we would be all right. That's what they've done. Having Pat (Williams) really helps because he's so familiar with it."
Indeed, the nose tackle has looked outstanding in the past two games. Williams (6-3, 317 pounds) has spent much of his time in the opponents' backfield and last Sunday was far too much for undersized Green Bay center Scott Wells to handle.
There could be one other defensive twist in place at Carolina. Trailing 17-0 at halftime to Green Bay last Sunday, the Vikings coaches decided to have cornerback Fred Smoot blanket Packers receiver Donald Driver. The results were eye-opening.
Going against either Antoine Winfield or Smoot in the first half, Driver had six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. With Smoot shadowing Driver and getting some safety help, the receiver was held to two grabs for 13 yards in the second half.
One key is that Smoot feels more comfortable playing press coverage than Winfield, making him potentially more of an irritant for receivers. If Smoot and Winfield can adjust to changing sides on a regular basis, Smoot could wind up on Carolina's Steve Smith throughout Sunday's game.
Offensively, coordinator Steve Loney said no real adjustments were made at halftime of last Sunday's victory. However, the Vikings did have success in two areas and likely will continue to employ the strategy at Carolina.
The first is an I-formation package that had a tight end lined up in the backfield with the running back. Coach Mike Tice felt that helped the inside run game.
The other was an empty backfield look that was used for the first time this season. Marcus Robinson's 27-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter — the score broke a stretch of 20 consecutive possessions without a TD — came out of that formation.