Leslie Frazier got away with stopping the clock because Kevin Williams turned back time.
Nearing the end of a career that will cause Hall of Fame debates, Williams, the Vikings’ star tackle, helped his defense rise like a “Walking Dead” extra and bare its rotting teeth.
A week after complaining about defense play calls, and following a half of sheer embarrassment on national TV, Williams turned back the clock and Washington’s previously inscrutable offense, willing the Vikings to a 34-27 victory Thursday night.
By shifting to nose tackle, Williams plugged a gaping hole in the Vikings’ run defense, provided the interior pass rush his team has lacked, and paid homage to the other Williams in recent Vikings lore, fellow running mate Pat Williams.
“I thought about calling him, and I talked myself out of it,’’ Kevin Williams said late Thursday night. “But then I just decided to watch a little more tape.’’
It may still have been called “tape’’ when he recorded his last multiple-sack game, in 2009.
“Yeah, they keep reminding me, it’s been since 2009,’’ Williams said. “ I told them earlier, we don’t need to get any ideas. It’s a lot of banging inside at the nose. It’s just something the next man up has to do.’’
The Vikings dressed only 42 players instead of the usual 45 because of injuries. They had only three tackles available — Williams, Chase Baker and Sharrif Floyd. Williams wound up playing 64 snaps, far more than usual.
Williams’ second-half dominance helped the Vikings take the lead, and led to Frazier calling two perplexing timeouts in the last two minutes, when Washington was out of timeouts and scrambling.
Frazier’s first timeout came with 1:20 left, when Williams could barely make it off the field for a rest. Williams took a knee, gasping for breath.
Frazier’s second timeout came with 38 seconds remaining and Washington on the Vikings 4.
Vikings receiver Greg Jennings threw a fit over the timeouts, which saved Washington time and led to organized huddles. Williams, too, wondered about the strategy.
“Yeah,’’ he said. “That’s the only reason you can think of, because we were a little winded.
“I was a little surprised by the timeouts, but Coach was trying to give us a blow and not let us be in chaos, and it paid off.’’
Frazier said he called the timeouts to allow defenders to catch their breath, and to preserve time in case Washington scored and the Vikings needed time to drive.
Even if Kevin Williams disagreed with the strategy, he probably wasn’t eager to share his viewpoint. After he criticized defensive coordinator Alan Williams on Sunday, Frazier called his veterans together and asked that critiques be kept within the organization.
Kevin Williams complained Sunday because Alan Williams had him and other key pass rushers dropping into coverage on the Cowboys’ game-winning drive.
“It was heat of the moment,’’ Kevin Williams said. “I was just speaking on the front-line point of view. We always feel we can get there with four people, and we always like rushing four rather than dropping one. That’s all it was. It wasn’t anything more than that.’’
Thursday, Alan Williams was the one begging to be heard. He gave the defense a halftime tongue-lashing.
“We came in and we didn’t draw anything on the board, we just said we weren’t getting it done,’’ Kevin Williams said. “We could draw up all the plays we wanted, and if we didn’t execute, they were going to run us out of here. Either we were going to get embarrassed or stand up and fight.’’
They did both, in turns.
As the last minutes ticked away and Washington drove, Frazier gave Kevin Williams another chance to second-guess a coach.
Williams’ brain told him the timeouts were ill-advised, but his body welcomed them.
“At first, you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ but in the back of your mind, you’re like, ‘Yes, I got a blow!’ ” he said. “It paid off in our favor.
“If it hadn’t, we’d be discussing something different.’’
Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • email@example.com