Linemen turn up heat about lack of pressure

ARLINGTON, Texas -- On Thursday morning, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams bounded up to the podium for his weekly news conference, fresh off a discussion with defensive end Brian Robison and safety Jamarca Sanford about the importance of staying the course on defense. Williams then repeated the same themes to reporters, asserting that the Vikings are facing a difficult phase of the growing process with a young defense.

"When you do lose you don’t just say, 'Hey, we’re going to find a different way or go outside your core values,'" Williams said Thursday. "You want to stick with what you’re doing if you truly believe in that and you want to keep grinding away because there are negative voices out there to say, 'Hey, do something else, fix something else.' Other people can fix it, or other people outside the organization can make it better and that’s not the case."

On Sunday afternoon, following the Vikings' third last-minute loss of the season, Robison and defensive tackle Kevin Williams didn't sound like players who were sold on the current direction.

"There are some things going on internally that are not allowing us to close out games," Robison said, pausing for nine seconds after he was asked about the final drive of the game, as he searched for a diplomatic response. "We've got to make sure we handle it in-house and we get it done."

The most glaring -- and to Robison and Williams, the most galling -- example on Sunday came on the Vikings' final drive, when a defensive line that had put consistent pressure on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was corralled by a conservative scheme. The Vikings had pressured Romo on 36 percent of his dropbacks before the final drive, according to ESPN Stats & Information, but was only pressured once on the final drive, and hit seven of his nine passes on a 90-yard drive that led to the winning score.

On the drive, Romo was 6-for-7 for 56 yards and a touchdown when facing four or fewer pass rushers. And on many of those plays, Romo was only facing three rushers, with the Vikings dropping a defensive tackle into pass coverage.

"I was excited about the game plan this week. I thought it was a good game plan," Robison said. "For 99 percent of the game, it worked out pretty well for us."

Both Robison and Williams are part of the Vikings' leadership council that meets weekly with coach Leslie Frazier, and it stands to reason both players' comments about the defensive scheme will come up this week. Frazier uses the meetings as a way to stay apprised of issues in the locker room and communicate his themes for the week. Players said the meetings were an integral part of keeping the team together during a four-game winning streak that lifted the Vikings to the playoffs.

But now, it might take something stronger to keep the team from crumbling with the Vikings at 1-7.

"We'd just like to get a four-man rush," Williams said. "Release the big guys, let them push the pocket. We did it all day, and then we just start dropping a guy the last drive on the line. I can say from that standpoint, it's kind of terrible when you're trying to stop them. I know they went empty (backfield), trying to throw it quick and all, but if we make them hold it one second, we can probably get there."