Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings' D continually caught in the trap of trying to do too much

Posted by: under Off the field, Vikings, Bears, Packers Updated: December 6, 2012 - 4:50 PM

Alan Williams isn’t big on moral victories. So while the Vikings have been solid defensively the last two weeks in Chicago and Green Bay, the defensive coordinator points to only one thing: the Vikings still lost.

“Still not good enough,” Williams said. “They still scored too many points.”

The Bears and Packers combined to convert 57 percent of their third downs (20-for-35). Connected with that, the Vikings’ defense has also been chewed up by lengthy, draining, time-consuming drives. In Week 12 in Chicago, the Vikings allowed a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.

Last week, the Packers ran 11 minutes off the clock to open the fourth quarter, marching 73 yards in 17 plays before Mason Crosby kicked a game-sealing 31-yard field goal. There were no major defensive breakdowns on that series. But there were no big plays either.”

“It’s one guy here, one guy there, not getting our job done, not taking care of our assignments,” Williams explained. “It builds up and when you have a team like that, if you don’t take care of your assignment on every play, they’ll make you pay.”

One thing at a time

Williams believes his players have fallen into the trap too often this season of “trying to do more than their supposed to.” That’s again been a point of emphasis this week as the Vikings attempt to shore things up for Sunday’s game with Chicago.

“The preaching point, the sticking point is if you do your job, that will be plenty good enough to win a ball game and to get off the field series after series,” Williams said.

It’s a concept easier preached than practiced, especially with a team growing increasingly desperate to get back on the winning track. Williams understands the challenge for players in harnessing their desire to make something happen.

“But the point is, when you look at tape and we do get off the field and we are playing good football, it is just that: guys doing their job. We’re trying to hammer that down and make sure we get that done this week.”

Self-destruction

Williams was most peeved last Sunday by the number of costly penalties his defense incurred. Officially, the Vikings’ D drew four flags for 38 yards. But a Letroy Guion offsides penalty was only wiped off the books because Aaron Rodgers used the free play to throw a 32-yard touchdown pass to James Jones. And Everson Griffen’s offsides penalty a few series later was declined when Rodgers used the free play to draw a 23-yard pass interference flag on Mistral Raymond.

"The first rule of winning is don’t beat yourself," WIlliams said. "And in a lot of respects, it had more to do with us than it did the Packers."

Rodgers’ cadence and hard snap counts often provide opposing defenses with headaches. But Williams said, that’s not a valid excuse for the Vikings’ miscues.

“You move when the ball moves. It’s that simple,” Williams said. “You have to tune out the cadence, you have to tune out the gyrations and get off the ball when it moves. … When you have a team that’s as good as Rodgers is and as good as they are on offense, they will make you pay if you make mistakes. And they did.”

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