TAMPA, JAN. 15 -- The Minnesota Vikings don't blitz much because they don't need to. In defensive end Chris Doleman and defensive tackle Keith Millard, they have as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the league, and that can be taken literally.

Earlier this year, Millard punched-out some guy at a bar, not to mention the three girls he also swatted around because they tried walking by him to the dance floor. The guy he punched didn't go down at first, so Millard head-butted him. He's still facing four misdemeanor counts, but he's done nastier things to offensive linemen and gotten away scot-free.

As for Doleman, he's guilty of nothing but impersonating Lawrence Taylor. Doleman wears No. 56 because he used to be a linebacker, but the Vikings needed him to sub-in at defensive end last year against the Washington Redskins -- who they'll meet again in Sunday's NFC title game -- and he's been at that position ever since. He's in the Pro Bowl this year with 14 sacks (11 during the regular season), though he said: "I don't know how popular I am yet."

The two are well-liked by Vikings coaches, because they're the keys to a defense that has Purple People Eater tendencies, though a contest to rename the front four has brought nothing clever or original.

Coach Jerry Burns calls them "Big Knockers," probably because he can't remember their names (which is nothing new) and obviously because they're pretty big. In the Vikings' playoff victory over San Francisco last week, Doleman and Millard both were double-teamed, and fellow defensive lineman Doug Martin sometimes had to take on two people at once, too. The 49er coaches say they kept running back Roger Craig in as a blocker most of the game, with Millard and Doleman in mind, and it took Craig out of their offense.

"Teams are sometimes sending only two receivers out in the pattern against us," said Doleman, who had two sacks against the 49ers. "If we're getting a lot from our pass rush, there's no need to blitz."

Millard, who's made 10 tackles and a sack in the two playoff games, said: "Teams keep at least a running back and tight end in {to block}, and we're still beating people."

The latest rumor here is that Millard is mellowing. Apparently, he was exerting too much energy earlier in the season, getting so emotionally pumped before games that he'd have nothing left but hot air in the final quarter.

Defensive coordinator Floyd Peters pulled him aside and told him to "chill out," which must have worked.

"He's whipping guards like they're not even there," Peters told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "God, I've never seen a tackle in two games {in the playoffs} beat people so badly."

A torn calf muscle took Millard out of three games this year, including the Chicago and Green Bay games, both Vikings losses. Several Vikings coaches said the Vikings might have won those games if Millard had played. "He's what Singletary is to the Bears," Doleman said. "He gets us going, jumping around."

His tactics include throwing his helmet against cement walls and banging his head against anything wooden, though he's really an expert at kicking things. As a kid, he played soccer before moving on to football, because his mother preferred it that way. His hero was Pele, not Alan Page, though his Vikings teammates have a hard time picturing him in tiny soccer shorts.

Doleman's rushing style is like the Eagles' Reggie White, who -- according to Doleman -- "just picks guys up, throws them out of the way and attacks the quarterback."

Doleman doesn't get sacks exactly the same way, relying a lot on quickness, too (about 4.6 second speed in the 40-yard dash). Actually, it's taken about a full year for him to feel like a real defensive end, and his breakthrough came after he borrowed a bunch of game films from Peters during this year's players strike.

Not only did he watch his own technique, but he studied White, Washington's Dexter Manley, Chicago's Richard Dent, and New York's Taylor. When the strike ended, he brought back the movies and a new and improved self.

The Vikings drafted him with the fourth overall pick in the 1985 draft, and he was a true linebacker back then. General Manager Mike Lynn remembers wanting to draft receiver Eddie Brown with the pick, but the six other people in the Vikings' war room all wanted Doleman, so Lynn said he had no choice.

When he first made the switch to lineman, he got knocked down a lot. "I don't think offensive teams saw me as a threat," he said. But with his return to RFK Stadium this weekend, he's come full-circle and now says he wouldn't go back to linebacker unless the Vikings changed from their 4-3 to a 3-4 defense and needed him back there.

"I'm happy where I'm at," he said.

The Vikings are also happy because additionally Martin is a steady rusher (9 sacks), and rookie defensive tackle Henry Thomas is a third-round pick who's blossomed.

On the other hand, the Redskins held Doleman, Millard and Co. to one sack in their previous meeting this year, so Millard says they aren't "People Eaters" yet. But they're working on it.

Viking Notes: The injury list includes guard Greg Koch (back), running back Darrin Nelson (flu) and wide receiver Leo Lewis (thigh), though all are expected to start in Sunday's.