The Minnesota Vikings did not lose any ground in the standings this afternoon, but their defensive line looks a whole lot more ordinary right now.
The NFL denied appeals made by defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, and the Pro Bowl performers must now sit out the final four games of the season for violation of the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances. The Williamses are two of six players whose appeals were shot down by the league.
Minnesota (7-5) forged ahead in the NFC North Sunday night with a convincing 34-14 victory over the Bears, who are a game back at 6-6. But the Vikings will have to face Detroit, Arizona, Atlanta and the New York Giants without the interior of their eighth-ranked defense in place. It was the Minnesota defensive line that turned the tide Sunday, repelling the Bears on four plays from the one-yard line in the second quarter as the Bears tried to pad a 7-3 lead. Then, Gus Frerotte hooked up with ex-Bear Bernard Berrian for a 99-yard touchdown and the Vikings led 10-7. They never looked back.
"Are they different? Well, they're different,'' Bears center Olin Kreutz said about the Vikes without the two Williams in the middle. "How different is yet to be seen. That's like asking is our defense different without [Brian] Urlacher and [Lance] Briggs. Well, the answer is, `Yeah.' There's no other way to put it."
The NFL's decision has further impact on the remainder of the Bears season. New Orleans has also lost running back Deuce McAllister and defensive end Will Smith to four-game suspensions, meaning they will miss the Dec. 11 meeting at Soldier Field. Defensive lineman Charles Grant was also suspended for four games, but he's on injured reserve and would not have played in the game had he won his appeal.
All of the players involved used the controversial supplement StarCaps, that was laced with a diuretic that is considered a masking agent for steroids.