Notes From Frazier’s Monday Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 6, 2010 – 1:40 pm

Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters early Monday afternoon for his usual day-after-the-game press conference and during his opening remarks he noted that Sunday’s victory over the Buffalo Bills marked back-to-back wins for his club and he also pointed to the energy of the home crowd as the “impetus for the type of effort” the Vikings gave.

“We had great energy from our fans,” Frazier said. “You saw the results. Our team really played Vikings football. We talk all the time about being a physical, running football team on offense and that was on display yesterday. We did a great job of being able to rush for over 200 yards; I think we had over 40 carries.

“Our special teams really stepped up. Had a number of drives where we pinned their team inside the 20. Great job of setting up our defense.”

Frazier said the defense was “on fire” in forcing 4 turnovers and allowing the offense to score points off of those turnovers. Frazier also said it was good to see the defensive front four playing aggressively, with  Jared Allen and Brian Robison providing pressure from the edge and DT Kevin Williams causing havoc in the middle.

“For all of us that have watched Minnesota Vikings football,” Frazier said, “when our defense and defensive line is pressuring the quarterback the way we did yesterday, we’re a hard defense for people to score on. Yesterday was no different. It was just a great effort – Antoine Winfield, E.J. Henderson, Jared Allen, Brian Robison, guys just stepping up all across the board.”

A few other notes from Frazier’s press conference…

– Frazier said that QB Brett Favre has a SC sprain and will be under constant evaluation. He said Favre will probably be “day-to-day” as the week goes on.

– Adrian Peterson came out of the game “in pretty good shape,” Frazier said. Toby Gerhart strained a hamstring, Steve Hutchinson is still day-to-day, Tyrell Johnson tweaked his knee and it could be an MCL but should be fine.

– Frazier confirmed that RB Lorenzo Booker will be signed by the Vikings today and that a corresponding roster move will be made to make room for Booker on the roster. It sounds like the Vikings are hopeful Booker can help the offense immediately, perhaps on 3rd downs.

– Frazier said one of the most encouraging parts of Tarvaris Jackson’s performance in place of Favre was the way he responded following his first INT, which was returned for a TD. Frazier also said he told Jackson that the next offensive play was going to be a pass, which is what happened and Jackson ended up completing it.

– Percy Harvin is “in good spirits” following his battle with migraines last week.

– Ray Edwards (ankle) will be day-to-day this week as well and Frazier said he’ll be the starter when he’s healthy enough to play.

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Allen’s 2010 Pro Bowl Credentials Continue To Grow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 6, 2010 – 11:15 am

Through 5 games this year it looked like Jared Allen would not make the Pro Bowl for the first time as Vikings and for the first time since 2007. At that point, he had just 1.0 sack and his impact plays were limited.

Now, with 4 games to play in the regular season, Allen has regained his form and is coming off another game in which he’s given people a reason to vote him in – he’s definitely getting my vote. Against Buffalo on Sunday, Allen registered another sack to go along with 5 tackles – 3 of which came for a loss – and a forced fumble. Allen was involved in several other QB pressures that led to sacks for teammates and mistakes by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Allen now has a sack in 5 straight games, including 2.5 sacks against Arizona and 2.0 sacks against Chicago in Weeks 9 and 10 and he led all NFL defenders with 6.5  sacks in November. You also have to consider some of the intangibles Allen brings to the defense, such as forcing opposing teams to scheme for him and pressuring QBs into bad decisions and bad throws.

Halfway through the season there wasn’t much of a case to be made for Allen going to the Pro Bowl, but over the last 2 months there’s plenty of evidence to suggest Allen is worthy of a Pro Bowl vote. No one had more sacks in November and Allen is off to a great start in December after playing one of his better games of the season.

Fan voting for the Pro Bowl is open and you can click here to cast your ballot.

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Mall Of America Field Not Kind To Ryan Fitzpatrick

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 6, 2010 – 9:50 am

There were sensational developments on offense for the Vikings on Sunday during their game against the Buffalo Bills. Brett Favre was lost early to injury and Tarvaris Jackson filled in, Adrian Peterson ripped off 107 yards and 3 scores on the ground and Sidney Rice looked to be in 2009 form with 2 highlight-caliber TD catches.

But as significant a factor to the outcome of the game as any of that was the performance of the Vikings defense and how it impacted Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Vikings defensive line, and specifically DE Jared Allen, pestered Fitzpatrick all afternoon and forced him into several mistakes.

Fitzpatrick’s stat line looked like this after the game: 15 of 25 for 158 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT for a passer rating of 75.1, sacked once, fumbled 3 times with 2 lost fumbles. You may remember Fitzpatrick struggling in Minnesota because he was the Rams QB in 2005 and didn’t have any more success back then, either. His stat line looked like this after the game: 26 of 45 for 235 yards with 0 TDs and 5 INTs for a passer rating of 32.4, sacked once and fumbled once in a 27-13 loss.

Add those 2 performances up and you’ve got just 1 TD compared to 6 INTs, just a 58.5 completion percentage, 8 total turnovers and an 0-2 record. It’s not fair to judge Fitzpatrick as a QB based on these 2 performances, though. He’s a 5-year veteran out of Harvard who took over starting duties for Buffalo this year after Week 2. Since then he’s had several nice passing performances, including 5 multi-TD outings and 4 games with 250+ yards passing.

The bottom line is playing on the road is tough, regardless of where you’re playing.

“Any time you play on the road they get off a little better, the defense does,” Fitzpatrick explained after the game. “I think it becomes a little bit of an issue but that happens every week you play on the road so it’s not something that is new to us.”

While it is tough to play on the road no matter where you go, the Vikings do benefit from a distinct home-field advantage at Mall of America Field, and Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier will be the first to acknowledge that and in fact point it out.

“Having our fans is a huge lift for our football team,” Frazier said after the game. “We’ve got, in my mind, the best fans in the National Football League and it was on display today. Our players fed off of that energy and particularly our defensive line. It looked so much like the defensive line we’ve all become familiar with here in Minnesota. They did a great job getting off the ball and keeping Buffalo’s offense off guard a little bit.”

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Frazier After Game: “No Quarterback Controversy”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 6, 2010 – 8:05 am

Leslie Frazier has been a straight shooter in speaking with reporters since taking over as Vikings Interim Head Coach and he was no different after Sunday’s blowout win over the Buffalo Bills, a game that saw starting QB Brett Favre leave on the first series because of injury and backup Tarvaris Jackson come in and lead the offense to 38 points.

“No quarterback controversy; if he’s healthy, he’ll be our starting quarterback against the New York Giants,” Frazier said of Favre during a post-game press conference. “Hopefully that will be the case, but we’ll wait and see what happens. Great job by Tarvaris, I don’t want to take away from anything he did today. He had a great game.”

Favre was injured on the 3rd offensive play of the game. It was 3rd and 5 from the Minnesota 40 and Favre was sprinting to the right on a designed play. He stopped, set his feet to throw and was hit by LB Arthur Moats just as he released the ball, causing the pass to pop up in the air. CB Drayton Florence was in the right place at the right time and came up with INT. Favre was slow to get up and was unable to return because of a shoulder injury.

Jackson entered the game on the Vikings next series and picked up one 1st down, but the offense couldn’t muster anything after that and Chris Kluwe came on to punt. On the next possession, Florence jumped a route and grabbed his 2nd INT, returning this one for a TD to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead. From that point on, though, Jackson settled in and guided the Vikings to a victory, with help from a dominant performance from the Vikings defense and a punishing performance by Adrian Peterson against Buffalo’s defense.

Jackson finished going 15 of 22 for 187 yards and 2 TDs with 3 INTs. It was great to see Jackson complete 68.1% of his passes, find Sidney Rice for 2 TDs and generally guide the offense well. But it wasn’t great to see the 3 INTs and to realize that Jackson had just 17 yards passing in the 2nd half – although the Vikings didn’t call many pass plays in the 2nd half because they had a big lead.

The bottom line is Jackson helped lead the Vikings to a victory, which is what you’re looking for in a backup QB.

“It felt great to get out there and just play,” Jackson said after the game. “Obviously I didn’t want it to be under that circumstance but that’s part of the league and part of the game. We got the win and that’s the most important thing.”

It was encouraging to see Jackson do some things well on Sunday in place of Favre, but Frazier was asked twice and was clear in both answers that Favre is the starter if he’s healthy.

“As I mentioned before, if Brett’s healthy Brett’s our quarterback,” Frazier reiterated. “Tarvaris did a great job; nothing against Tarvaris. We can win with Tarvaris. I know we’ve got two good quarterbacks. Brett’s our starting quarterback. If he’s healthy he’s going to be our starting quarterback next week. But we know that Tarvaris if he steps in he can lead us to success. He’s done it before. We won the NFC North Championship with Tarvaris as our quarterback.”

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Webb’s Cameo Appearance

Posted by cjsiewert on December 6, 2010 – 7:50 am

There were 3 WRs among the 8 inactive Vikings on Sunday and as a result rookie QB Joe Webb was on the active 45-man game-day roster.

The Vikings selected Webb in last April’s draft with the intention of converting the athletic QB to WR, but ultimately he returned to his natural position under center as the team’s #3 QB. But with 3 of the 8 inactive Vikings coming from the WR corps – Percy Harvin, Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett – Webb found his way onto the field early against the Bills.

The Vikings received the opening kickoff and with regular return man Harvin on the sidelines, Webb was given the opportunity to take the kick back. And he did so by darting 30 yards straight ahead from the 5, setting up the Vikings offense at their own 35.

“I was trying to pop it out,” Webb described to reporters of his kick return after the victory. “I saw a little crease and I was just trying to hit it as hard as I can run down hill and run up with your feet. That was my first time running a kickoff return and now that I got a chance to see it and know how to read it, I’m sure the next one will be a lot different.”

Following his first ever kick return, Webb made an appearance at the WR position early in the 1st quarter – zero receptions and was not targeted – but was sidelined after playing on a punt return in which he tweaked his hamstring.

If not for the injury early in the game, would we have seen more of Webb integrated into the Vikings game plan?

“I don’t know if I’m letting any secrets out of the bag, but we had a package for him,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier told reporters during his post-game press conference. “It just obviously didn’t unfold. We had some things in store. The good thing for our football team, although we had some things in store, we had enough with the people that were playing to overcome the fact that we lost Joe.”

Is the cat out of the bag? The answer to that question will be answered next week against the NY Giants in the Vikings second game of a 3-game home stand. My guess is that if Frazier had a package “in store” specifically for Webb that we may be in store for a showing of the rookie’s athletic abilities in the weeks to come, if he stays healthy.

“Yeah,” Webb responded when asked if he was to see more time at receiver against the Bills. “I was going to get some time in too but right now my focus is just to get healthy and get back.”

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Week 13 NFC North Roundup

Posted by cjsiewert on December 6, 2010 – 7:19 am

After trouncing the Bills by a mark of 38-14 on Sunday afternoon at Mall of America Field, the Vikings improved their record to 5-7 and are still mathematically in the hunt for the playoffs (see below for the conference breakdown).

So here’s another edition of the divisional recap to see how the NFC North shook out. But this week we’ll dedicate a great deal of the focus on what needs to happen for the Vikings to reach postseason play – and as you’ll see, A LOT of help is needed.

The Chicago Bears won their 5th consecutive game with a 24-20 win over the lowly Detroit Lions at Ford Field, improving their record to 9-3 while maintaining their hold on the division lead.

The Lions led 20-17 midway through the 4th quarter, but a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty called on Lions DT Ndamukong Suh led to a 7-yard go-ahead TD pass from Bears QB Jay Cutler to TE Brandon Manumaleuna on the ensuing play.

Cutler completed all but 5 of his passes, going 21 of 26 for 234 yards and the go-ahead TD. Chicago will host the AFC East-leading New England Patriots (9-2) next Sunday.

The other team in the division vying for a playoff spot found its spark in the 2nd half at Lambeau Field. The Green Bay Packers defeated the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 34-16, improving their record to 8-4.

The Packers held a slim 14-13 lead at halftime, but QB Aaron Rodgers and Co. opened the 2nd half with a quick 4-play, 69-yard scoring drive that ended on a 61-yard TD pass from Rodgers to WR Donald Driver. From there it was all Green Bay, with the Packers adding another TD – Rodgers to WR Greg Jennings – and 2 Mason Crosby FGs to seal the victory.

Green Bay will travel to Detroit to take on the Lions (2-10) next Sunday.

The Packers win over the 49ers coupled with a Bears victory eliminated the Vikings from defending their back-to-back division titles. Even if the Vikings win their remaining 4 games, the Bears and Packers face each other once more this season, and common sense will tell you that at least 1 of those teams will leave the Week 17 matchup without a loss (I can’t say with a win because there is always the chance of a tie).

So if you are wondering, “can the Vikings still make the playoffs?” here’s what needs to happen…

1)     Vikings win remaining 4 games.
2)     Packers lose remaining 4 games.
3)     St. Louis Rams or Seattle Seahawks lose at least 2 games.
4)     NY Giants or Philadelphia Eagles lose at least 3 games – 1 must be to the Vikings.
5)     Tampa Bay Bucs lose at least 3 games.

If all 5 of the listed possibilities happen, here is how the NFC playoff picture would look:

South Champ – Atlanta Falcons or New Orleans Saints
North Champ – Bears
East Champ – Giants or Eagles
West Champ – Rams or Seahawks
Wild Card – Either the Falcons, Saints, Giants, Eagles, Rams, Seahawks or Bucs (all dependant on which teams win their respected divisions and which team has the best record among the rest of the Wild Card prospects)
Wild Card – Vikings

I realize that’s a lot to chew on, but something to keep in mind for all the supreme optimists out there.

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