Unhappy Vikings’ players call out coaches
EDEN PRAIRIE — Minnesota Vikings defensive players were upset with both coordinators and were not shy about sharing those frustrations with reporters following Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
Specifically, the defenders were upset with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave for throwing the ball with a three-point lead late in the game and with defensive coordinator Alan Williams for calling too many three-man rushes during the nine-play, 90-yard drive that ended with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo throwing the game-winning 7-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left in the game.
The Vikings led by three points when cornerback A.J. Jefferson intercepted a Romo pass to give the Vikings the ball at the Dallas 41-yard line with 4 minutes, 35 seconds left. On the ensuing play, the Vikings called a deep pass to Greg Jennings. Jennings was open, but Christian Ponder overthrew him, taking only eight seconds off the clock and leading to a quick three-and-out.
“You’d think we would run the ball to run the time out,” veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. “But I don’t coach offense. I just have to play what they call on defense.”
The Vikings opted to punt the ball rather than attempt a 54-yard field goal or go for it on fourth-and-5 at the Dallas 36. A punt gave Romo the ball at his 10 with 2:20 and two timeouts left. The Vikings, meanwhile, were missing four of their top five defensive backs, including cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who injured his left knee on the previous series.
Despite success with four- and five-man blitzes, the Vikings went primarily with three-man rushes during the game-winning drive. Romo responded by completing 7 of 9 passes for all 90 yards and the touchdown.
“We’re putting heat on them the whole day,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “What did we have, (three) sacks? That’s a pretty dang good day and then all of a sudden we get in a drive where we’re going to rush three guys and then we don’t get to him. You’ve got five guys to block three so.”
Head coach Leslie Frazier defended Musgrave’s decision to take the shot on first down, saying it was a good call because the Cowboys had stacked the line of scrimmage and the fact that Jennings was open. Frazier also said the defensive breakdowns on the game-winning drive were the result of execution, not schemes.
The Vikings fell to 1-7, their worst start since their inaugural season in 1961 began 1-7. Frazier said no changes to his staff are expected. He also said he’ll talk to players about venting their frustrations publicly.
“You know I respect their opinions and I know how competitive they are and how much they want to win,” Frazier said. “I like for them to talk to their coaches, myself about whatever concerns they may have and try to get those worked out. But I do understand their frustration and I respect their opinions.”