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Frazier, Ponder Reflect on Chicago, Look Ahead to Cleveland

Posted Sep 18, 2013

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier

Good morning, guys. Big week for us coming home playing at Mall of America Field. Our guys are excited about it, I’m excited. I think we have the best fans in the National Football League and it’s going to be great to line up in front of our fans at home. It’s still early in the season, but at the same time, this is a very, very important football game for us as we are working as hard as we can to be a team that’s going to be a factor over the course of the year. We need to get off to a good start at home. All our players realize that. We know the importance of practice this week in our preparation. You have to take care of your home field. Probably the only guy that won’t participate today will be Rhett Ellison. We’re going to hold him back and give his knee a little more time to heal and just see how he does tomorrow as well. Everybody else should participate. We should have full participation by everyone else so we’re a relatively healthy football team.

Q: Is there any long term concern with Rhett?

A: No, we’ll be day-to-day with him. We’ll see how it goes, but it should not be a long term situation at all.

Q: The Browns named Brian Hoyer their starter today. What ways does that help you from a preparation standpoint?

A: We’ll have to go back and look at some tape of his time in Arizona and even in the preseason there with Cleveland. Going into it their number two was Jason Campbell and that’s kind of the guy we were looking at yesterday and the day before. We’ll have to do our homework on Brian, learn a little bit about him and then go from there.

Q: Is it a help that they came out on Wednesday and told you who’s starting?

A: It’s a lot better than finding out on Sunday at noon, I promise you that.

Q: From run game standpoint, are defenses approaching you guys differently or is there something you guys can do better?

A: I don’t think they’re approaching us a whole lot differently. There are still eight-man fronts, getting the safeties down in the box, pretty much the same. We have to do some things a little bit better and Adrian (Peterson) will be the first to tell you this, there are some things he could do also to help that situation. We feel like we’re real close to getting things the way we want. I think we’re close, real close. We should be improved in this next ball game, although, Cleveland is one of the better run defenses in our league right now. When you’re giving up a little over two yards per carry, that’s pretty impressive. We’ll have our work cut out for us, but I think we’re really close to getting where we need to be as far as running the football.

Q: Adrian said he felt like he was hesitant last game. Is that something you can see on film?

A: There were some things that we saw that we talked to him about since the ball game that we think will help our run game and help him as well. I don’t know if hesitancy was the word, but trying to make every run a 60-yard run, which is not always going to be the case. Sometimes you just have to get what’s there and he’s been good at that and he’ll be better going forward.

Q: Do you sense urgency among the group at 0-2?

A: You know what I sense, the fact that we’re playing at home, that means a lot to our players. It’s our home opener and we know the importance of winning games at home. That’s what we talked about this morning, they sensed that. They also know the fact that there’s a game or two separating everybody in our conference right now so this is great opportunity for us at home to get on track, to get on the winning track. That part of it they’re well aware of, but more important, the home opener. We have to take care of business at home.

Q: Ponder had a poor first half. Who rallys him at half time? Does he rally himself? What goes on to get him charged up for the second half.

A: He’s a pro. You want to have guys who are self-motivated and very critical of themselves over the course of a game and he’s one of those guys. He’s an accountable guy. The coaches are definitely always pointing out players’ mistakes and also things they’re doing well and we pointed out some things, but it still comes back to Christian having that intestinal fortitude to say, ‘You know what, I have to play better to help our football team,’ and that’s exactly what he did. He had a good second half for us and now we have to build on that. But it always comes back. Even though you could write a column about a guy’s performance, I could say things to him about his performance, but at the end of the day, he’s got to recognize some of those things too and say, ‘You know what, I can do this a little bit better.’ To Christian’s credit, he played much better in the second half.

Q: You had a quick moment with him on the sidelines after that interception. What did you see in him and what did you want to convey?

A: I was really encouraged when I talked with him. He was really focused. He told me, ‘Coach, I’ve put that behind me, I’ll be ready to go next series.’ The way he said that and the way he looked me in the eye when he said it, the conviction that he had, I was assured that he’s alright. He’s going to be OK. He went on and played well.

Q: It seems like when he’s been at his lowest, he’s rebounded fairly well. What is it about him that allows him to turn the page and move forward?

A: I think a lot of athletes are so competitive that when their backs are against the wall, sometimes those guys kind of want to show you that I can do this. You don’t like to be playing with your back against the wall a whole lot, but that happens with a lot of real good athletes. They sometimes get pushed and they want to push back. He has had some moments where he struggled and did bounce back and play well, Sunday was an example of that.

Q: Is it frustrating that it takes that to get him to that point to get him to bounce back?

A: He’s had some moments where he started well and played well throughout. You don’t ever want to have something negative happen to get you going so he’s more than capable of doing it for four quarters. We’ve seen him do it. What happened on Sunday, that second half is something that we can build off of.

Q: Do you have to worry about him being over excited for a game like this coming Sunday?

A: Not at all, because when you take a look at Cleveland’s defense that is not the area they’ve struggled. They are playing very, very good defense. They’re not giving up yards in the run game, doing a very good job in pass defense. This is a very stout front seven that they have. I don’t think there’s a sense of over confidence at all. All of our guys know we’re in the National Football League and you have to play well. He, like the rest of our team, wants to do the things we have to get done at home, regardless of who the opponent is. But he’s not over confident about Cleveland’s defense. They’re a good defense.

Q: Chad Greenway seemed frustrated in the locker room. What does he need to do to get back to where he was?

A: He just has to slow down a little bit and just do the things he’s always done. He does not have to make anybody else play, just do your job, calm down, relax, just play the way you’ve always played. He’s had a lot of success for us, he’s played at a Pro Bowl level, just don’t feel like you have to do any more other than your job.

Q: With Erin Henderson being new in the middle, do you think he’s sliding that way and trying to help out too much?

A: There’s a tendency for that to potentially happen, new guy across from you, and that’s something we have to guard against. You just have to trust that Erin’s going to do his job, you do your job and we’ll be fine as group. He shouldn’t have to feel like he has to do any more than what he’s done in the past.

Q: What are your overall thoughts on Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell through two games?

A: They’ve been pretty solid in the first two ball games of the season. We’ll see how they continue to progress over the next few weeks, but pretty solid for the most part.

Q: You were able to get Desmond Bishop in for a few snaps. How did that opportunity unveil itself and what’s next for him?

A: We wanted to make sure we got him some game snaps and wanted to get him a series and it just turned out they ended up going to three-wide which cut it short as far as our base defense. But this week, we want to get him a few more snaps, get him some more time on the field and see how he does with that time on the field. He seems to be much more comfortable in our defense now than a few weeks ago and we continue to get him reps in practice so he can get that comfort level he needs to go out play fast. We want to get him more snaps this week coming.

Q: Last week did the Browns show any of the quick passes you’ve seen the first two weeks?

A: They haven’t, but I would not be surprised if that changes. They’ve taken a lot of sacks so I would not be surprised if that changes coming into our ball game.

Q: What do you know at this point about Brian Hoyer?

A: Before we came out I put on a quick tape of his start against San Francisco a year ago just to get a glimpse of him before coming out. When I go back, myself and the coaches will all learn more about him and look at him in the preseason as well, but just got a glimpse of him this morning.

Q: Did you go into a bit of a scramble mode because it sounds like you were preparing for Jason Campbell and now you know it’s not him?

A: Well you just try to get as much data as you can on the guy that’s going to start and start doing your preparation from there. We have pro scouts, advance scouts who look at guys in the preseason and they write up reports on them and we’ll get those reports on what Brian did in the preseason and take a look at it and see what his strengths and weaknesses are and try to put a plan together around that.

Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder

Well sitting at 0-2, obviously not the start that we wanted but we are excited that finally we have a home game. I don’t know if we’re the only team that has had two games on the road but for us to be back in Minnesota in front of our fans is going to be great, it’s going to be a great advantage for us. Cleveland’s a tough team. Their defense is outstanding, I think they are averaging two yards a rush against them, so it’ll be a challenge for us as an offense, but it’ll be fun. We want to obviously get ourselves back on the right track. Cleveland is 0-2 but they aren’t an 0-2 team. They are going to be coming in here, play us tough, and we expect it to be a four quarter ball game and to the very last second. But we are again excited that we’re back at home.

Q: Do you guys see that as your chance to get back on track with two home games and the neutral site game?

A: Definitely. We’re going to use this home-field advantage to the best of what we can do. It’s a huge advantage for us, our fans get so loud and as an offense that’s played two games on the road in pretty loud places it gets pretty hard to operate. We’re excited for that and we look to improve our record. We want to be in this first quarter to be even, be 2-2 but it starts with Cleveland and we are solely focused on Cleveland now.

Q: How was your attitude after that pick-6 and getting back in the huddle and leading that drive?

A: Honestly my attitude didn’t change. My confidence didn’t waiver. We knew that the execution had to pick up and that last drive before the half we spread them out, we completed a bubble route to Greg (Jennings), Adrian (Peterson) had a long run got us towards the red zone and then Kyle (Rudolph) made a great catch and then I think we started to get in a rhythm after that. It was just a higher level of execution but for me I mean I’ve learned to move on from those things and not let it carry over.

Q: Coach Frazier said he liked what he saw in your eyes after that. When a coach comes up to you after a play like that do you think that you’ve got to show him that you’re still in there?

A: Honestly I didn’t think about Coach Frazier. My mindset is hey I’ve got to change it for this team, for this offense for us to have a chance. I think in prior instances like in high school or college I let interceptions affect me or even my rookie year here but now I’ve found that I need to move on, I can’t let it affect me otherwise it’s going to negatively affect our offense and we’re not going to play and have as good of a chance to win a ball game.

Q: When you looked back at film what did you see?

A: Well I got there probably a little too early and (Tim) Jennings and they were in a blitz zone so they were probably expecting the ball to come out a little quicker and it did and he made a great play on it. Next time just try to throw it away or don’t want to give them a chance to pick it and get some points.

Q:Did the velocity have an effect on it?

A: No, we try to those balls with a little bit of touch so that when the receiver comes out of his break that if it’s too hot then he’s not going to be able to find it. Again, I think the biggest thing was if I let the play develop a little more than maybe Jennings would have got out of his hips a little expecting a go route and not made a break on it and if he did I would have been able to see it and throw it away.

Q: What do you think you guys need to do to get touchdowns and not field goals?

A: It’s just execution. There were a couple of plays where we had a guy open whether I missed Kyle (Rudolph) or we didn’t make the catch in the tight space. We understand that it’s harder to complete balls and make plays in the red zone because the defense is tighter, there are smaller holes and spaces. It’s just a mindset that we have to pick up our level of execution. I think we were 100-percent against Detroit and we’ve got to work on that and continue to get better because obviously when you convert threes rather than sevens it hurts you.

Q: Do you feel like you guys were aggressive enough on 3rd-and-4 running up the middle?

A: We want to make sure that we wanted to run the clock and give them the least amount of time as possible and we wanted to get three points and we did that and it’s unfortunate that it obviously didn’t work out the way we wanted it to

Q: Did you have the option to check into a pass on that play?

A: No, I did not.

Q: How important is it to get Cordarrelle Patterson more involved in the offense?  

A: He’s great with the ball in his hands. The problem is he’s behind a guy who is number four in the league in average yards per catch. Jerome (Simpson) is playing at an extremely high level but we do want to continue to get Cordarrelle involved and he’s made plays for us and we’re going to keep getting him out there and put the ball in his hands and we see what he did in the return game and a couple of the screens that he has, he’s a great player.

Q: With Percy Harvin those screens were such a weapon for you. Can Cordarrelle approximate any of that? 

A: Yeah, I think so. He’s got a great knack of making guys miss and finding holes and making plays with his legs. We’re going to continue to get him those balls and give him that ability to do so and then he’ll keep developing his routes down field. But again, Jerome is playing at such a high level, it’s hard to take him off the field.   

Q: It seems when you’ve been at a down point here you’ve bounced back. What do you attribute that to?   

A: I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s just a sense of urgency that things need to be corrected, I’m not sure. When I make a bad play, I don’t want to make up for it but I do understand that the execution does need to pick up, the ball security needs to pick up, but I don’t know. It helps when the other guys play around you and play well and make plays like Kyle and Greg and Jerome did. I don’t know what the difference is.    

Q: How is it when you get all jacked up and then you don’t get the football because you score so quickly?

A: Well when we can start with seven points it’s a pretty good deal for us. Again, I think if we look back at last year when we went 4-0 in December we had great starts at the beginning of the games and kind of got into our rhythm. We want to start fast in what we’re doing but we also understand if we don’t, we don’t lose the game in the first quarter nor do we win the game in the first quarter.

Q: How much do you notice that Cordarrelle isn’t getting in the game? Is he coming up and saying something to you on the sidelines?

A: No, not at all. He’s been a great team player and I don’t really notice who’s on the field or who’s off honestly. When you get in the game you’re just focused on your plays and everything that’s going on. But he’s been great, he hasn’t really said a word. I think he understands again that Jerome’s playing well and he understands his role and he’s a rookie, he’s going to keep getting in there and keep getting more playing time.

Q: The offensive line got more stable in the second half against Chicago. Was that better protection or you making quicker decisions?

A: No, they were great in protection. I thought they handled Chicago’s front very well and they’re going to have a challenge this week against Cleveland. But they played really well, opened up some holes in the running game and did great in the passing game and I think they’ll continue to do that. It’s Week Two, or just finished Week Two, and we want to get to midseason form pretty quickly.

Q: On your third-down runs, was Chicago really draping things downfield or was that you just spotting opportunities?

A: Well they were good in coverage, especially on third down. I know that they played a lot of man and when things weren’t open that there were going to be running lanes and when they do play zone their (linebackers) get a lot of depth, so I knew that and I knew that was going to be opportunity for us to run and a team like that is so sound in their technique and what they’re doing. Those linebackers really do focus on taking away the passing game and the lord blessed me with good legs and (I) try to make some plays with my legs.

Q: When you had that hit on Lance Briggs did you think it was going to be worse at that point?

A: Yeah I got caught between knowing that it was third down I wanted to hopefully get those extra yards, convert the first down and then I was going to start to cut back and then I just saw him coming for me so I kind of just stopped and then lowered my shoulder. I think I caught him off balance that’s why he went like that. I felt pretty good, it was probably my most proud moment during that game.

Q: Did you get a lot of credit for that in the film room?

A: I did, it was good.

Q: How sure were you on that fourth down?

A: I was sure when we had a naked and they took everybody away. I just dove out and fortunately I was a yard past the sticks and we were able to convert, that was big for us.

Q: Why not roll out right and run or throw on the goal line? Is that play not there?

A: We have the best running back in the league and we think that again we wanted points on the board, we didn’t want anything crazy to happen, we wanted to keep the clock running and/or force them to take a timeout, if we incomplete a ball they don’t need to take a timeout. Unfortunately, Monday morning quarterback is easy to look back and think that we could have done things differently but I wouldn’t expect that if it happens this week that we would change that. Adrian will make plays all the time and he does a great job of it.  

Q: Is that the play there? We don’t see it much.

A: We call roll rights, it all depends on what hash we are on and when the play comes in but we do go to the right.

Q: Does it ever frustrate you that your path has been a little different than the younger quarterbacks that have come in and made a huge impact right away?

A: No, not really. For us as a quarterback and as a team you’re ultimately judged on wins and losses and whatever my path is I just want to win. If that’s handing the ball off to Adrian 50 times and throwing for 50 yards I don’t care. The ultimate goal is to get into the playoffs and make it to the Super Bowl. I’d much rather have a game like last year where I played terrible against Arizona and we win the game rather than a game like this where I played decent in the second half and we still lost.

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