Notes From Frazier Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 12, 2011 – 2:23 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held his customary day-after-the-game press conference on Monday afternoon and in so doing he provided a quick injury update and then discussed some of the big issues coming out of Sunday’s close 34-28 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Here are a few notes from the press conference…

– Frazier the most significant injury coming out of the game was WR Stephen Burton, who injured the MCL in one of his knees. Burton will not undergo surgery, but the timetable for his rehab and return is such that he wouldn’t be able to make it back before the season concludes. As a result, the Vikings have placed him on the Reserve/Injured list, they’ve elevated Manny Arceneaux from the Practice Squad and Frazier indicated the team may sign another WR to take Arceneaux’s place on the Practice Squad.

– Frazier was optimistic on Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder being able to play this weekend against the New Orleans Saints. Frazier described Peterson, who is dealing with an ankle injury, as close to being able to play last Sunday and Ponder as “no worse for the wear” after playing into the 3rd quarter against Detroit with his hip injury. Frazier also noted that DE Brian Robison “banged” his knee during the game but was able to finish.

– The 6-point loss on Sunday in Detroit marks the 8th loss of 7 points or fewer for the Vikings this season. That’s a remarkable stat for this Vikings team considering the injuries they’ve had to overcome. With the losses mounting up, it’s also a credit to the leadership on the Vikings coaching staff and in the locker room that the team continues to battle so hard in close games. No one wants to be the loveable losers, but it’s even worse to be the bad team that doesn’t even try hard. The Vikings clearly are not a group that doesn’t fight to the end, and Frazier appreciates that team quality. “As I mentioned before, not a lot of solace when you lose games when you’re battling every week to try to get a win like we are,” Frazier said, “but the fact that they are continuing to fight and not giving up and not make any excuses gives you some hope that we’ll continue to fight each and every week and hopefully eventually get it turned where some of those tough losses end up being victories. Hats off to our players for fighting the way they’re fighting.”

– Detroit’s 2nd TD of the game came on a 57-yard pass to WR Titus Young on a play where Young ran past CB Cedric Griffin and then beat S Jamarca Sanford further down the field to haul in the pass and dash into the end zone. On the play, Griffin’s responsibility is to re-route the WR early, and then to pass the receiver off to the safety. The problem was that Griffin didn’t get a sufficient re-route of Young, which enabled the Matthew Stafford-to-Young hookup and score. Griffin didn’t see much action after that play and Frazier was asked about the situation on Monday. Frazier said Griffin is not “in my dog house” and that the team will discuss the issue and move forward this week with a plan. I don’t expect Frazier will “give up” on Griffin, a player who has come back from severe knee injuries and is a good locker room guy. As Frazier said, the technique of re-routing a WR is something Griffin has executed countless times in the past and it’s likely something he’ll continue to be able to execute for the team going forward.

– The big story of the game for the Vikings is the removal of Ponder in favor of Webb, and then Webb’s subsequent performance and ability to nearly bring the team back to victory. While Frazier has maintained that Ponder is the team’s starter, he’s also acknowledged that the team would prefer to get Webb on the field more frequently because of his play-making ability. The issue right now is that Webb is the backup QB, and his value as the backup QB (which we saw on Sunday in Detroit) is too much to risk by having him on the field frequently. Once Sage Rosenfels, acquired two weeks ago, is more up to speed, then expect to see Webb in a more expanded role on offense. “No question, he is a guy who can create players when there’s nothing there,” Frazier said. “And we’ve got to do more as far as getting him out there and trying to put him in position to make plays, especially when Adrian is not playing and you’re relying so much on Percy. We need all the playmakers on the field that we can get and he is for sure one of our playmakers. It’s something we’ve got to continue to explore. We have some packages that we use sporadically, maybe we’ve got to go a little bit deeper with those packages.”

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Monday Morning Mailbag Extra: More On Ponder-Webb Discussion

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 12, 2011 – 10:24 am

We addressed it in the Monday Morning Mailbag, but because I’ve received – and continue to receive – so many emails on it and because not everyone who reads the blog necessarily reads the Mailbag, I wanted to bring up the Christian Ponder-Joe Webb discussion one more time here.

Ponder, dealing with a painful hip injury suffered last week in Denver, made it through this past week and was able to push himself enough to make the start on Sunday. Eventually, though, Ponder couldn’t overcome the injury and Leslie Frazier pulled him in favor of Joe Webb. As you surely saw or at least have heard by now, Webb sparked the team and nearly completed an improbable comeback.

As a result, many of you have formulated the opinion that Webb should be the starter. That’s the basis of the entire discussion, and I’ll provide my opinion here to open up discussion for everyone in the comments section and that will be the last I’ll mention it for the week. Frazier has already said that Ponder is the starter if healthy going forward, and I don’t see that changing.

I agree with Frazier that Ponder should be the starter. It’s not taking anything away from Webb; he came in and did everything he could possibly do to make plays and bring the Vikings back to life. To me, Webb has proven once again that he belongs on an NFL roster and he belongs on the field more often. He’s a playmaker and he possesses a unique skill set that any offense could utilize. And I believe the Vikings will utilize Webb more often going forward, especially once we get to the 2012 season. Let me reiterate – Webb is a terrific player, he belongs in the NFL, he answered the bell above and beyond the call of duty on Sunday, he was a great draft pick by the Vikings and I hope he remains on the team for many years to come.

But with all of that said, Ponder is and will remain the starter and the future of the position for the Vikings. Is he making mistakes right now? Yes, he’s making mistakes. And I know it gets frustrating to watch a quarterback repeatedly give the ball away to the other team. But when you’re in the business of developing a franchise quarterback who is currently in his first year, you have to live with growing pains. Overnight results happen when you’re making Jell-O and baking bread, but not when you’re developing franchise quarterbacks.

As I said in this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, just look at some of the most successful quarterbacks in the NFL over the past decade. Then look at how they performed in their first year as the starter.

– Peyton Manning had three-interception games three times in his first four starts, and he had 11 interceptions over his first four games. After his first season, Manning had more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (26). I bet Colts fans are glad the team didn’t give up on him.
– Eli Manning had more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (six) in games that he started as a rookie and then he had four multiple-interception games, including a four-interception game, during his first full year as the starter for the Giants.
– Aaron Rodgers had two three-interception games in his first year as the Packers starting quarterback.
– Matt Ryan had four multiple-interception games in his rookie season.

I’d be willing to bet that each of those teams and their fan bases are glad the team didn’t give up on their respective quarterback after a few bad games.

The moral of the story is to be patient and resist the urge to overreact. Ponder has made mistakes, there’s no denying that. But he’s also shown that he has the ability to be a franchise-caliber quarterback, and he’s done that while playing for a two-win team that needs an influx of talent at several offensive positions.

Be patient, Vikings fans. Ponder will be worth the wait.

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Vikings Defense Answers The Bell vs. Lions Offense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 12, 2011 – 8:40 am

A quick look at the final score of Sunday’s loss might make you think otherwise, but the Vikings defense answered the bell against a typically explosive Detroit Lions offense. The Lions scored 34 points in their victory, but the point total alone doesn’t tell the true story.

Ultimately, it was turnovers by the Vikings offense early in the game that allowed Detroit to build an advantage that was just barely enough to preserve victory. The Lions scored two defensive touchdowns in the 1st half, and for the game Detroit collected 24 points directly off of Vikings turnovers.

When the Lions weren’t aided by a Vikings turnover, though, they had trouble against the Vikings defense. Here’s a list of the Lions offensive drives and results of those drives when they didn’t obtain the ball via turnover:

4 plays, 19 yards, 1 first down, punt
4 plays, 34 yards, 2 first downs, touchdown
6 plays, 25 yards, 1 first down, punt
3 plays, 2 yards, 0 first downs, punt
4 plays, 9 yards, 0 first downs, punt
15 plays, 76 yards, 5 first downs, field goal
6 plays, 20 yards, 1 first down, punt

Add it all up, and the Lions averaged just 6 plays, 26.4 yards and 1.4 first downs per drive, very solid numbers for the Vikings defense.

In addition to all of that, the Vikings held QB Matthew Stafford to just 227 passing yards (he averaged 293.9 coming into the game) and they sacked Stafford 5 times. Stafford’s top target, Calvin Johnson, was also held in check with just 3 receptions for 29 yards.

The Vikings also held Detroit’s running game in check, as the Lions gained just 72 yards on 21 carries (3.4 yards per carry). For the game, Detroit had just 13 first downs – compared to 29 for the Vikings – and the offense as a whole generated 280 net yards, which is 104.2 yards below their season average.

None of this will make the loss feel any better, but it was good to see a Vikings defense that is severely hampered by injury play up to and above the level of the Lions offense. Both Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac should be pleased with the effort and results of the Vikings defense.

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Vikings Hosting Toys for Tots Drive at Sunday’s Game vs. New Orleans

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on December 12, 2011 – 6:00 am

The Minnesota Vikings are once again teaming up with the U.S. Marines to brighten the holiday season for local youngsters. As part of the annual Minnesota Vikings Toy Drive, the team is encouraging fans to bring new unwrapped gifts to the Vikings-Saints game on December 18 at Mall of America Field. Marines will be collecting “Toys for Tots” and cash donations at each gate, beginning at 10:00 a.m. through the noon kickoff.

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Congratulations To Jared Allen On Career Sack #100

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 12, 2011 – 5:11 am

Congratulations go out to Vikings DE Jared Allen on reaching an incredible career milestone. With another 3.0-sack effort on Sunday (the 4th time he’s had 3+ sacks in a game), Allen reached and surpassed the 100.0-sack plateau; he now has 100.5 for his career.

Allen got to Lions QB Matthew Stafford 3 times, with each one coming in the 1st half. The Vikings tallied 4 sacks total in the 1st half, with DT Kevin Williams claiming the other sack, and for the game Stafford was tackled behind the line of scrimmage 5 times. Allen now leads the NFL with 17.5 sacks this season.

Here’s a career highlight video of Allen as a Viking.

Since the Vikings acquired Allen via trade before the 2008 season, the fun-loving and fan-favorite DE has tallied season sack totals of 14.5, 14.5, 11.0 and now 17.5; he’s also had 3.0 sacks in the playoffs as a Viking. If Allen leads the Vikings in sacks this season, which he undoubtedly will, it will mark the first time since John Randle (1997-2000) that a player led the Vikings in sacks for 4 straight seasons. Allen is also the first Vikings defender in team history to notch 14.5 sacks or more in 3 separate seasons.

There are so many other superlatives to point out regarding Allen’s career with the Vikings, including the fact that only Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware (61.5) has more sacks in the NFL since Allen arrived in Minnesota (57.5) and the fact that no one – including Ware – has more sacks than Allen since he entered the NFL in 2004 (100.5). It’s also impressive to note that Allen tied the NFL record for safeties in a career with 4 earlier this season.

Anyway, we could on and on about Allen and his excellence on the field. But we’ll stop for now. Congratulations Jared! Keep it up.

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