Depleted defensive line gets needed resurgence from Kevin Williams
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MINNEAPOLIS - At one point, defensive tackle Kevin Williams laughed off questions in training camp that he'd have to be limited to 30-40 snaps this season.
Off a season-high 64 snaps, Williams registered his first multi-sack game since 2009 as a bevy of injuries forced him into the nose tackle role where he accounted for all of his 2.5 sacks with both defensive tackles Letroy Guion and Fred Evans out during Thursday night's win over the Washington Redskins.
"A lot of banging on the inside in the nose. I think they rather I do it than throw the young guys in the fire like that," Williams said. "After I got going, I started running to the nose to play the nose."
Three months later, Williams laughed off a request for a permanent switch to nose tackle - a position often suited for the line's heaviest player to stop the run.
"So, I mean, we might've found something...," Williams said. "Nah, heck no. It was just something we had to do."
"Told [coaches] earlier, we don't need to get any ideas."
The Vikings had just six healthy defensive linemen in Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Chase Baker and Williams. Allen and Robison played the majority of snaps with Griffen rotating at the one-technique in passing situations.
The Vikings dressed only 44 players, not having enough room on their inactives list to place all nine of the wounded.
Williams' resurgence came up big at an opportune time as he covered up for any dropoff in production with rookie Floyd and second-year Baker deep in the mix.
"I wouldn't have been able to guess that. I know [Williams] was very focused throughout the week, very disappointed in the way he fell short a week ago and determined to come back and help our team get a win," Coach Leslie Frazier said. "I hope that's the Fountain of Youth he's found and we're going to see it the rest of the season."
Just four days ago, Williams was calling out playcalling at the end of Sunday's loss at the Dallas Cowboys, in which the Vikings defense allowed its third game-losing touchdown in seven losses.
Allen, an outspoken veteran in his own right, took notice.
"When Kevin speaks, everybody better listen. He's a powerful man, hell of a player still. It drives me crazy when people think he's lost a step," Allen said. "Unfortunately now we're only judged on sacks. What he does in the run game, his leadership, the ability he still has to make game-changing plays just proves how good he really is."
"When someone is in 11 years in one organization, and with his accomplishments in this league, when someone like him talks, you listen."
Despite the passionate outcries for changes or questioning coaches, Williams said it wasn't any overarching change that resulted in a win - it was simply a matter of "getting it done," Williams said.
Placed in a familiar situation, with a 34-27 lead and less than a minute to go, the Vikings found themselves with their backs against their own goal line again. As the Redskins neared the endzone, Frazier called multiple timeouts near the end of the 14-play, 76-yard drive, even though the opposing team was running out of time.
Many scratched their heads at the time management, even Williams, who ultimately said it was the right call as the defensive line of 30-somethings needed a breather. Receiver Greg Jennings was also seen reacting surprised to the calls from the sideline; enough so to send out this tweet postgame.
"Our guys were getting a little fatigued and if [Washington] were to get a score, I wanted us to have a chance to go back and respond," Frazier said. "I didn't want them to run the clock out and us not have a chance on offense. Fortunately for us, because our guys were gassed, they got their breath and made some big stops at the end."