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 EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Since a standout performance in the season opener, Kevin Williams hasn't made much noise in the middle for Minnesota.
An All-Pro selection in 2006 who signed a hefty five-year contract extension worth as much as $50 million last December, Williams returned an interception for a touchdown and had a sack, a pass deflected, and seven tackles - one for a loss - against Atlanta on Sept. 9.
Over the four games since then, Williams has managed seven quarterback hurries but little else: a forced fumble, a pass deflected, and eight tackles - one for a loss.
With the Vikings generating only seven sacks as a team over those four games and surrendering large chunks of yards through the air, it appears that they're missing some necessary production from their 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle.
``He's doing what he's doing. He'll have his breakout games this year. I'm sure you'll have enough to talk about. But he's doing what he needs to do, and we see it when we're in there watching film,'' linebacker E.J. Henderson said.
Minnesota has maintained a strong commitment to stopping the run first, and after narrowly missing an NFL record for fewest yards rushing allowed last year the Vikings are at it again. They're second in the league with an average of 66.2 yards given up per game.
Williams and his interior linemate, Pat Williams, have a lot to do with that. Though they haven't been as obviously disruptive in the backfield this season, they're facing frequent double teams. That has allowed the linebackers - Henderson, in particular - more room to roam and make impactful plays.
Henderson leads the team with nine tackles for loss and produced one of the hardest hits by the Vikings this season, when he forced a fumble by smacking Chicago's Jason McKie last Sunday. Henderson got a six pack of bottles of purple Grape Crush, which coach Brad Childress gives out for such plays.
``When you've got teams focusing on me and Pat inside, heavily, giving those guys a chance to run through and run over the top of blocks, it's tremendous for us,'' Williams said. ``I mean, if we're not getting it, we're glad they are.''
Williams, who had 22 sacks over his first two seasons and only nine over the last two as the Vikings tightened up their run defense, said he's not frustrated by his recent absence from the highlights.
``I know the double teams are happening, but ... I've got to beat it. There's no way around it. I really don't dwell on it. I just try not to pay attention to it and go about my business and make plays throughout,'' Williams said.
After Brian Griese and the Bears padded their stats with a late rally to reach 375 yards in last week's 34-31 loss to Minnesota, the Vikings dropped to the bottom of the league in pass defense. They're allowing an average of more than 288 yards per game through the air.
Rankings such as these are not an accurate marker of a team's success, since there are so many variables that can skew the result. But over the past two years, the Vikings have clearly been vulnerable when teams throw the ball - particularly on third downs and against opponents adept at spreading the field with formations using three or four wide receivers.
Inconsistency from the pass rush is part of that concern.
``We have to improve that area, and if we do, that will improve our pass defense,'' defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. ``They go hand-in-hand, and we have got to do a better job of getting on people's edges and winning some one-on-ones. It's something that we are constantly talking about, and this is the week to do it if ever there is a week.''
The Vikings visit Dallas on Sunday. The Cowboys, with quarterback Tony Romo and a number of capable receivers, are third in the NFL in yards passing.
Last season, defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin didn't blitz much. Frazier has said he'd like to do that more, but it hasn't happened in recent weeks.
``We really want to be better with our four-man rush and if we can't do it, then you have to figure out another way,'' Frazier said.
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