Notebook: Familiarity has helped coordinator to be more aggressive
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings defense played its best game of the season in a 23-6 upset victory at Houston on Sunday, giving up no touchdowns and a season-low 187 yards to the Texans.
Houston was 1-for-11 on third down and quarterbacks Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates were sacked a combined four times.
It appears first-year defensive coordinator Alan Williams has become more aggressive in his approach, the more comfortable he gets with the Vikings' personnel.
"All along as the season has gone on he's gotten more familiar with our players and what their strengths and weaknesses are," said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who served as the team's defensive coordinator from 2007 until taking over as coach in November 2010. "We are without question playing our best ball on defense and this is where you want to be doing it at. You don't want to start off great then all of the sudden you're fizzling in December.
"It's great to see how we've grown as a team and we're growing on defense as well. The things that we did game-plan wise, our defensive staff did a great job throughout this last week preparing for Houston, which is a very good offense - one of the top offenses in our league. Alan and the rest of the defensive staff did a terrific job. He has really adapted to our guys and what their strengths are."
The Vikings won't be able to spring many surprises on the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at the Metrodome. A Vikings victory will put them in the playoffs but it won't be easy going against Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has seen plenty of the Vikings in the past.
What will be interesting to see is if Williams attempts to show the Packers some things they have not seen from the Vikings defense.
"You have to do those things, especially when you've got to give somebody a different look," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said of being aggressive and switching up things. "Otherwise, you put the same thing on tape over and over.
"Obviously, they are going to start to figure it out. Now we move forward to Green Bay, who knows what we are going to do for the most part because they see us a lot and we have a lot of like opponents. But hopefully we can throw something different at them."
Still the starter
Nose tackle Fred Evans played well and had a key sack in Sunday's game, throwing Schaub for a 14-yard loss on third-and-1 from the Vikings' 1-yard line in the third quarter, but Frazier said that Letroy Guion isn't in jeopardy of losing his starting job to Evans.
"Fred had a very good game," Frazier said. "He did a lot of good things. He played lights-out. The week before as well. He's playing good football. Letroy is still our starter. Letroy has played well for us. He struggled with that toe injury for a while, but we need good play from our nose tackle for our defense to work effectively. Between Letroy and Fred, I think we have two guys that can give us what we're looking for. Letroy is still our starter."
Getting his chance
After being inactive for the first nine weeks of the season, rookie Jarius Wright got his chance when Percy Harvin was lost to an ankle injury. Wright caught a team-leading five passes for 53 yards on Sunday and now has 19 receptions for 220 yards and a touchdown.
"Jarius has done a great job," Frazier said.
Wright, a fourth-round pick last April, made his debut on Nov. 11 against Detroit and caught three passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. That included an early 54-yard reception to set up his score.
"He's just since taken off as he's gotten more confident with what he's doing and what we're asking him to do," Frazier said. "The game he had (Sunday) was a big-time game. We've called on him a number of different times to make plays for us. He ran good routes, got yards after the catch for us.
"He's a young guy that we have high hopes for. We had high hopes for him after we drafted him. It was just a matter of him growing as a player and adapting to our league. He's making strides. He'd be the first to tell you there are some things he wants to improve on, but he's done a terrific job."
Nowhere to run
Running back Adrian Peterson's streak of 100-yard rushing games came to an end at eight on Sunday as he had 86 yards on 25 carries. That left him 102 yards shy of 2,000 for the season.
Asked how Houston accomplished what so many other teams have struggled to do, Frazier said: "You need not look any further than that 99 (defensive end J.J. Watt). He causes a lot of havoc, and Antonio Smith as well. Both of those guys did a terrific job.
"There aren't a lot of people that have J.J. Watt on their team, thankfully for us. He can be very, very disruptive and we had to do a lot of things to try to keep him from being too disruptive. But they did some good things and they brought a lot of people to the line of scrimmage, not unlike a lot of other people that have done the same thing.
"A lot of blitzing and bringing people off the edge. But their personnel, they have good personnel and we'll see similar schemes, but if they don't have the similar personnel, good luck."
Greenway caused a bit of a stir among some after the Vikings' lost to the Packers on Dec. 2 when he suggested Vikings fans prepare for the following week's game against Chicago by getting "super duper drunk."
Greenway was just having fun but not everybody took it that way and he ended up backtracking on those comments.
On Monday, Greenway asked Vikings fans not to sell their tickets Sunday to anyone wearing Packers green but he made no suggestions about how fans should prepare for the 3:25 p.m. kickoff.
"I'm not saying anything," Greenway said.