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Ponder, Frazier Discuss Offensive Issues

Posted Sep 11, 2013

Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder

Well, the good thing about football, especially in the NFL, you have to move on quickly. Watching the film Monday and Sunday night there were a lot of things that were easily correctable and we’ll get them fixed. We understand that this game is important and we have to play a lot better. Another divisional road game against a great defense and we’re excited to get on the field and play again and get the bad taste out of our mouth.

Q: When you look at the film what stuck out as the problem for the offense?

A: It’s just mistakes that are easily correctable. We’re too good of a team to be making those mistakes. We have to establish the run a little better. We had the first run that was great and then towards the end of the game we were running the ball a little bit better. We have to continue to develop that area and can’t turn the ball over.

Q: Do you have a process of how to go in to the film room, take your medicine then refocus? How does one do that?

A: One does that from the understanding that it’s a necessity. Mondays and Tuesdays its always that transition. Sunday night you get that bad feeling, Monday mornings when you head into the film room you get that bad feeling and as you watch the game you’re like, ‘Aw man, that’s something that was just dumb that could have easily not happened.’ As you watch it there’s a bad taste in your mouth, but at the same time it gives you confidence because these things are easily correctable. After we watch film Monday, right after that we watched Chicago tape. That mindset transitions pretty quickly that it’s time to move on and you get excited that you’re going to be on the field again Wednesday to practice and forget about those things.

Q: What are some of the factors why you play well at home and not so well on the road against the division?

A: I don’t know. Road games are tough in general, divisional games which are on the road or at home are tough and when you combine those things it’s tough for an offense. It’s a team you face twice a year so they’re comfortable in what they’re doing against you and their schemes against you and the crowd noise is a big factor. For us, it’s not allowing those factors to affect us. Again, watching that film, Detroit’s a great defense and they’re going to make plays, but a lot of it had to do with what we did to ourselves.

Q: Is it surprising to see the offensive line struggle like they have?

A: The D-line for Detroit is a good squad. They have a lot of talent and they are a force so we knew it would be a challenge for our offensive line. We know that they are motivated and they’re great players and we’re going to get it corrected. There are some things that I could do better, that everyone could do better – the running back, the receivers – and it’s something as an offense we can correct as a whole.

Q: Does Bill Musgrave present the game plan to you, or do you have input before it’s final?

A: On Mondays and Tuesdays, and I guess as the game plan is installed it’s broken up into pieces between Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We have the opportunities to provide input on what we see, what we like and Bill listens and he does a great job of that so we do have some sort of input.

Q: When did you feel like the game got away from you?

A: Honestly, that feeling that it got away from me never happened. It’s just a couple bad mistakes, a high ball to Jerome (Simpson) that was unfortunately tipped up and caught. That didn’t hurt us because we got the ball right back, the defense did a great job of creating a turnover. The second interception, just trying to throw the ball away, I have to have better awareness that a guy is bearing down on me. My mindset is first down and I don’t want to take a sack, but ultimately I don’t want to give a turnover. I need to just eat it, take a sack and live to play another day. Third turnover I was stepped on on the lead. I just have to eat that and understand that creating a handoff like that is going to be tough and just eat it and keep the ball in my hands. The fourth turnover I was just trying to create a play on fourth down. We were into it until the very end. We still had time, a couple minutes left at the end of the game to score two touchdowns. We won a game with 14 seconds left. We had to drive 80 yards to get a field goal and we did that. I don’t think a game is really ever out of our hands.

Q: Detroit’s defense seemed to be daring you to go downfield. How can you best exploit that?

A: Well I think the whole year we are going to have defenses that are going to be daring us to throw the football down the field. They are going to stop the run, they are going to play a lot of single-high, a lot of man coverage trying to stop Adrian and as an offense we have to beat man coverage with the receivers and we have to have time to throw it down the field and we’ve got to make plays. We made a couple of explosive plays on Sunday and we’ve got to continue to grow that and continue to expound on that. We have the receivers and the personnel to do it. We know that we have to take pressure off that running game and create plays in the passing game. 

Q: How did it come up that Jerome Simpson was the guy on Sunday?

A: He’s a great player and he’s healthy. Last year was unfortunate that he battled that nerve deal and was never fully healthy but now he’s very confident and we see what he can do when he’s ready to go. He’ll continue to do that all year.

Q: Was that by design or did he just happen to be the guy getting open?

A: He was the guy getting open. One of the catches, he was the primary read and he happened to run a good route and got open, but others he’s just getting open. He’s doing a good job.

Q: Do you see a difference in the way defenses are approaching the receivers now that you have Greg Jennings and Jerome is fully healthy?

A: Not really. It was the first game and what we saw was a defense trying to stop the run, playing single-high, playing man coverage, a lot of the same looks we saw last year and we’ll probably keep getting that until we make them pay in the passing game. We had those explosive plays. We saw at one point Detroit started playing more split safety in the middle of the game because we were throwing the football around and started completing passes and that forced them into split coverage and we’ll have to keep doing that.

Q: What do you say to yourself when you come off the field after making a mistake that you’ve made in the past?

A: I don’t think about it. It’s frustrating for a couple of seconds after it happens and then you move on. That’s the necessity of playing the position and you forget about it and you go out there and play like it didn’t happen. 

Q: When the offensive line struggles in a game does that change your internal clock of when you have to get rid of the ball?

A:  It’s just a feel. It’s that instinct of feeling if a guy got loose or in your vision some guy gets loose and you take off and run. There were a lot of times where we had a ton of time, like that long throw to Jerome, his second long catch, a ton of time back there to create that pass. Every game is going to be different. They have a good D-line so they’re going to get a pass rush and have guys get in the backfield and make plays.

Q: Was that deep ball to Jerome off target?

A: Clearly if a guy is wide open and you’d like to give him the ball and he catches and he scores. He made an unbelievable catch and it could have been a little better ball. 

Q: With the offensive line was it communication or technical things?

A: It wasn’t really communication. They ran some stunts and stuff and were able to get guys in the backfield and we’ll do a better job, especially this week. We know Chicago does a lot of stunts and movement upfront. They’re going to have to pass some things off and do a great job of that and they will. They’re an offensive line that has played together for many games and they’re experienced so I know they’re going to handle it.

Q: Did you feel the absence of Jerome Felton in the backfield?

A: Not really. Jerome is a great player, obviously a Pro Bowler, and we’ll be excited when he gets back but I think Rhett (Ellison) and Zach (Line) did a good job of getting in there and playing.

Q: How much emphasis did you hear in the offseason of trying to stay in the pocket and step up to throw?

A: It’s something that I understood that I had to work on and just watching film of myself that that was something that I could get better at. I feel like I’ve done a better job of stepping up and moving around in the pocket and that’s something that I’ll continue to try to work on.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier

Well I think our guys are anxious to get back on the field and get started again. They were good this morning in the meetings, they were good out in our walk through. We are looking forward to getting to practice and getting ready for our next ball game, very, very important game, another NFC North opponent on the road. We’ve got to figure some things out and I think our guys are anxious to get started, so it should be a good day for us. We should have every one practicing, including Kevin Williams, so that’s the good news for us, the fact that our entire team will be out there today participating and trying to get ready for what’s going to be a very important game.

Q: Would Kevin Williams have made an impact in the last Sunday’s game?

A: Kevin is so important to us. That absence, it makes a difference. He’s one of the best ever to play the game at his position, so anytime you don’t have him, not only from a performance standpoint, but a leadership standpoint as well, it’s going to affect your team. They did run the ball effectively against. Having Kevin I think it would have helped us for sure. I’m glad to have him back and hopefully everything will go fine this week and we’ll have him on Sunday as well.

Q: What challenges do you face when playing a road game other than crowd noise?

A: When you turn the ball over four times in a ball game, it’s not about crowd noise, it’s not about those other things. When you don’t play clean football on the road, most of the times you aren’t going to win, and we didn’t. It has nothing to do with anything other than you have to play sound, complete football when you travel. There are too many other factors that go into it to win on the road. If you do things to shoot yourself in the foot, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams, in our league you aren’t going to win on the road unless you are just so superior to your opponent, and there are very few teams like that in the NFL today. So to have a chance to win on the road, you need to play clean football.

Q: Is there a stress level on the road that maybe creates that?

A: I’ve been on good teams and on bad teams. The road, when you’re a good team, those factors don’t change from week to week. You cannot turn the ball over, you can’t put the opponent on short fields. That happens at home, it happens on the road, and you have to be a good enough team to not allow those things to happen. The crowd noise, you’re on the road, you’re going to have crowd noise. This is professional football. So you don’t make excuses and come up with reasons why you don’t perform the way you perform. We have to perform better than we did a week ago. And we know how to win on the road, we proved that at the end of last season. So there are no excuses.

Q: Do you think that some of the struggles this team faces at Chicago has to do with the environment of the stadium?

A: That’s pretty much the same. I’ve been on good teams where the conditions are the same for both teams. You find a way. You understand how to win on the road no matter the conditions. We’ve got to get to that point. The wind in Chicago, I was there when we played and there were teams that we played because we thought we had the advantage because of the temperature in December and we weren’t good enough and we got beat in December. You’ve got to be good enough talent wise and understand what it takes to win on the road and you’ll win on the road.

Q: What have you seen from Christian Ponder today?

A: A guy that’s focused and really wanting to do better than he did last week just like the rest of our team. He’s committed to improving and he’ll need to have a good week of practice because those guys do a good job of (taking) the ball (away). They ended up winning the turnover battle a week ago and that for them usually turns out to be wins. He’s pretty focused and needs to have a good week.

Q: Is Charles Tillman getting even better?

A: He’s terrific when it comes to turning the ball over. The first interception he got last Sunday, you could see his experience and how clever he is. A.J. Green is very good receiver but his smarts, his experiences as a defensive back, it showed up and to come with that interception and to score off it, he’s impressive. But he’s a very savvy guy. He’s gotten a little bit older in the league but he still has tremendous experience and got great instincts and tremendous anticipation and it shows up. He makes a lot of plays at that corner position.

Q: Are there any positions with Chicago that has really changed from last season?

A: On offense, I think their offensive line has really improved. They’ve done some things to help themselves personnel wise and they did a good job of protecting the quarterback last week. On defense, it seems as if they’ve carried over a lot of things that they did from a year ago that we can see on tape. It’s still early in the year. But probably the most notable difference is in their offensive line. (Brandon) Marshall is (Brandon) Marshall and so is (Matt) Forte, those guys are good players and Cutler’s a good player, but their line is much improved. 

Q: When you look at Christian’s entire body of work, where do you think he’s demonstrated the ability to make the tight throws on the run?

A: Well his body of work is somewhat limited. That was his second start on opening day, his first on the road a week ago. I have seen him make throws on the run, I have seen him makes plays in the pocket, out of the pocket. All you have to do is put on the tape from last December and there were a number of moments like that. We need consistent good quarterback play in order for our offense to thrive and for our team to be successful. Christian knows that as well as anybody. There are certain things we can’t do. Our margin of error is small, so if we’re turning the ball over, it just shrinks our opportunities to win. But to answer your question, I have seen him make those plays in and out of the pocket.

Q: Is he getting enough time in the pocket to make those reads and go through his progression?

A: There were times on Sunday where he didn’t. We definitely had some mishaps on a couple of occasions where he got set and then he was getting hit and we’ve got to do better on a couple of occasions. But we have to do better in some areas. There are going to be times where he may not have a clean pocket and you’ve got to make some good decisions when that happens. It does happen in our league to quarterbacks and you have to be able to function in those situations. It’s not always going to be perfect.

Q: Are you planning on altering your play calling or are you more likely to push him to make the plays?

A: We’re going to always try to do what we think is best for our players and from a game plan standpoint to try to put them in the best position to succeed and whatever that calls for, that’s what we are going to do. If that means paring something down or adding something based on the opponent, that’s what we’ll do, but we’re going to always try to put our players in the best position to succeed and that varies from week-to-week (with) how your approach it.

Q: Is there a moment that sticks in your mind that you say this is the Christian that we’ve always needed?

A: Some of those games late last season. There were moments. That Green Bay game at the end of the year, that was a terrific performance by Christian. We’ve seen him do it on repeated occasions and the consistent play is what we’re looking for. We’ll need to have a good week this week. But you don’t want to say that you can’t get this turned and going in the right direction after one week. I don’t think that’d be wise.  

Q: Are you concerned that some of the issues that plagued Christian are still popping up?

A: Christian, he made some mistakes. He’s not the only reason we didn’t have success on Sunday, our team did not play well and that affects the quarterback as well. We’ve got to do a better job up front. We’ve got to do a better job at tight end, wide receiver, defensive line, linebacker, secondary, special teams. As much as our quarterback can help us to win, for us on Sunday, it was not all about Christian. He had his mistakes, it’s just the fact is that the quarterback position is much more magnified. But we had some other guys, if you study our tape, they didn’t play well either and it affected whether we could win that ball game. It wasn’t just Christian. It just so happens that he plays the position that’s under the most scrutiny. But we had other guys, trust me, that when we watched the tape, the scrutiny that needed to be had in those moments, they are well aware that they had to play better. And they’re not looking only at our quarterback and saying, “if he had done this or that, we would have won that ball game”. We need to play better across the board.

Q: What did you see as the biggest key for Detroit having the space that they did on offense? 

A:  That was part of it, our not being able to get off the blocks, but we’ve got to do some things a little bit differently when people take the approach that Detroit took that they weren’t going to hold the football, they were going to throw the ball down to the running backs or quick route slants to the wide receivers, whatever it is. We’ve got to employ a different tactic. We didn’t do some things that we need to do to do give ourselves a better chance on some of the things they were doing and I’m sure Chicago is going to look at the tape and we’ll see something similar and we’ve got to do a better job in what we’re doing from a coaching standpoint and give our players a chance to make those plays a little bit better. So we’ve got some things that we’ve got to correct because we’re going to see those screens and short passes. When you have a pass rush like ours, we’re going to repeatedly see that until we show that we can defend screen passes and short passes over the middle.

Q: How much did it affect Christian not having your regular fullback Jerome Felton?

A: Well you’d like to have Jerome for sure but we’re not going to have him for the next couple weeks so we’ve got to be able to adjust how much that affected Christian, or more so our offense. Jerome was very good for us as a lead blocker but we’ve got some other guys that are going to do a good job for us and we have to play without him for the next couple of weeks.

Q: What are your thoughts of Marc Trestman in his first game and showing he’s not afraid to take risks?

A: That was a good win for them at home against a good football team. They did a good job, did what they had to do to get a win, so great job by their team, great job by he and his staff getting ready to play and getting a win against a team that was in the playoffs a year ago.

Q: Did losing the field position game allow Detroit to attack you in a different way?

A: No question. You like to start drives on the 50, plus-45, 50. That makes the game as an offensive coordinator a lot easier, it makes the game a lot more difficult as a defensive coordinator. Yes, without question it changes how you approach the game when you only have to go 10 or 15 yards to get at least a field goal. It makes a difference.  

Q: What do you think allowed Jerome Simpson to have a breakout game?

A: I think as much as anything it was his health and the running back that we have. We expected to get some single safety and we got it and we’re able to hit some plays because of it. We went into this season hoping that we’d have that downfield threat and Jerome proved to be that on that day, made some terrific plays. Christian made some nice throws as well. But the scheme, because of our running back and our being able to take advantage of it and hopefully we can continue to do that and get those explosives and take care of the ball and good things will happen.

Q: What did you think when you heard about the league’s fine for Ndamukong Suh?

A: It’s the league, it’s the NFL. I don’t have to worry about it. They handled it.