Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams managed to smile Tuesday about comments a few veterans made questioning his play-calling on the final drive of a 27-23 loss to Dallas on Sunday.
Williams dropped a lineman into pass coverage on four of the Cowboys' nine plays on a 90-yard game-winning drive. Afterward, Brian Robison and Kevin Williams questioned why the Vikings stopped rushing four linemen after their front four generated consistent pressure on quarterback Tony Romo all game.
"I don't take that in a negative way at all," Alan Williams said. "Our guys are competitive. They put a lot of work in. Good players ask why: 'Hey coach, why did you make this decision? What were you thinking?' I have no problem whatsoever about a guy asking me why. We explain it, we talk about it and we move on."
Williams said he decided to drop a lineman because the Cowboys were using screen passes to get the ball out of Romo's hands fast and offset the pass rush.
"We've been plagued by screens all year long," he said. "Our rush was heating them up for sure so the balls were coming out extremely quick."
Williams said he heard similar complaints from defensive linemen when he worked as an assistant for the Indianapolis Colts.
"Since I've been in the league for 10-plus years, that's always been a concern about guys that rush the passer well that, 'Hey Coach, we don't want to drop,'" he said. "My experience with good rushers is that they want a four-man rush. They don't want you to bring five, they don't want you bring three. They want a four-man rush. I have no problem with our guys with that."
What might have been
The Vikings held the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who went No. 2 overall, said Tuesday that he did not have any contact with the Vikings before the draft but that he heard from other parties that the team would have selected him if he had fallen to No. 3 — one year after drafting Christian Ponder 12th overall.
"I was told not to rule anything out," Griffin said on a conference call. "Not by anybody in their front office or their head coach. But obviously I know Adrian [Peterson] and we have the same agent and things like that. Specifically, I was told by a few people from the outside that if I had fallen to No. 3, they weren't going to leave me on the board. But nothing as far as them wanting to move up or just dying to have me. Just kind of, if I was there, they were going to take me."
John Carlson's role in the offense has been slim since he signed a five-year, $25 million contract last season, but he's now the No. 1 tight end with Kyle Rudolph sidelined because of a fractured left foot.
The Vikings had high expectations for Carlson after guaranteeing him $11 million as a free agent before the 2012 season. But he suffered a knee injury in training camp and finished with only eight receptions for 43 yards and no touchdowns. He has only 11 catches for 61 yards this season.
"When you have a guy like Kyle, that's the guy you want to feature so sometimes it hard to get [Carlson] the ball," Ponder said. "But now he's going to be the guy who's out there. It's going to be a great opportunity for him to establish his role and get out there and make some plays, make some catches."
In for the game
Ponder will make his third consecutive start, but Frazier declined to announce whether Josh Freeman or Matt Cassel will serve as the backup. Frazier kept that decision private until game day last week before choosing Cassel as the backup.
Frazier declined to discuss or speculate on the future at that position, but he said Ponder "knows from me that we want him to succeed."
"He has no reason to look over his shoulder and think that if this happens negatively, like an interception, you're going to be pulled or a sack-fumble you're going to be pulled," Frazier said. "He doesn't have to worry about that. He has to worry about playing well. That is all he needs to worry about."
The Vikings' injury report remained lengthy Tuesday. Eight players did not participate: Rudolph, running back Matt Asiata, defensive tackle Fred Evans, tight end Rhett Ellison, defensive tackle Letroy Guion, left guard Charlie Johnson, right tackle Phil Loadholt and safety Jamarca Sanford.
The team's top three cornerbacks all were limited: Chris Cook (hip), Xavier Rhodes (shoulder) and Josh Robinson (chest).