Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
I’m sure you guys feel the same way I do, you look forward to these press conferences after wins. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of fun. That win yesterday was huge for our team in the month of December. To go on the road, and as we all know, we’ve struggled on the road this season, to go out and play as well as our team played against a team that was fighting for a playoff spot just like we are, for our guys to go out and jump out early the way we did, made all of us very proud of our players, the effort they put into the week’s practice and their preparation as well. It really paid off. Injury-wise, the only guy that’s really banged up, to the point that he’ll be questionable for Sunday, is
Q: Did you get any results from Brian Robison’s MRI?
A: We’re just going to do an X-ray. They feel like they know exactly what it is and just a matter of time now. One of the things I was most impressed with about our football team yesterday was the discipline they showed throughout. We talk all the time about what our team characteristics should be and what we want to look like for opponents and fans as well, but to play smart, tough, disciplined football, that was something we needed to do on the road and we got that done. It was truly Viking football in so many ways, and then to play such a clean game on offense, no turnovers, taking the ball away was huge. We thought that would be big on the road and our guys did it again on defense, just a good team win. Special teams, Blair (Walsh) playing the way he played, Adrian doing the things he’s been doing, our offensive line opening up holes, defensive line, just a lot of guys contributed to our success yesterday. Good win for our team.
Q: Did you spend a lot of time last week telling your team they have to be in playoff mode?
A: We did talk about scenarios but the most important thing we talked about was the Rams and what we had to do to win that game and it won’t be a whole lot different this week. We’ll talk at length about what it will take to beat the Texans in Houston. They’re a very good football team. That’s where our conversation and our focus has to be, on the team that we’re playing.
Q: Does coaching have any effect on whether or not an offense turns the ball over or not?
A: I think you have to emphasize it. It plays such a major factor in wins and losses in our League, with the talent being so close around the League. Most of the time, it can sway a game, one way or another in the win-loss column. It’s something you have to emphasize. You don’t want to over-emphasize it to the point where guys are afraid to make mistakes. You still want to be aggressive, but you do have to emphasize, you do have to make guys aware the importance of it, so I think it does make a difference.
Q: Houston has a good turnover margin where St. Louis did not. How much harder is it to have another clean game on offense?
A: It’s going to be important for us to emphasize it again. On the road, being able to take the ball away, it’s a big deal for any team, whether it’s our team or any team in the League, so we want to be able to do that because it puts us in a better situation to win the game. What Houston does is probably no different than any other team, they’re trying to be aggressive on defense and pull the ball out. Knowing Wade Phillips, they’re preaching turnovers, just like we do. They’re just doing a pretty good job of taking it away and, just as important, they don’t give it away. They do a pretty good job of keeping the numbers down in that regard as well.
Q: What did you think of
A: He played well. He did a good job yesterday, leading our team that first drive when he took us down and we scored on his scramble, even on the fourth-and-one when he scrambled to get that first down. That was a big play for our offense, big play for our team. Really helped set the tone for the rest of the day and he was very efficient passing the football, did a good job of controlling our offense and putting us in good plays, whether it was a run or pass and I thought he played a very good game.
Q: Is there any fear that emphasis on Adrian breaking Eric Dickerson’s record might take away from anything in the game plan, concentration, or anything else?
A: I don’t think so. Adrian and I were talking just a few minutes ago about that part of things and what we’re trying to get accomplished and that’s to go out and get a win in Houston. The record would be great, but the most important thing is to get a win in Houston. The fact that he feels that way, that will permeate through the rest of our team. He wants to really concentrate on winning this game more so than the record. Our players are enthused by what he’s been doing. He’s been incredible to watch. They are pulling for him without question, but I think every one of our guys knows the importance of winning this game. If the record comes, that would be terrific, but the most important thing is to get a win.
Q: Was there a conscious effort to get Christian Ponder a few more of those quick-hitting type plays and getting the ball out of his hands a little bit quicker?
A: We definitely went into it game-plan wise, trying to find ways to get some completions and what you saw yesterday was based on what we saw game plan wise. This week could be a little bit different based on what Houston does on defense, but this week, that was the plan. We’ll see what happens against Houston.
Q: Do you allow yourself to look at all the different playoff scenarios?
A: I won’t even try. I’ll be really focusing on how can we beat a very, very good football team. The Houston Texans, that’s the most important thing, without question.
Q: How much has
A: Just his attitude early on. Mike Priefer did a good job of altering some things when we drafted him to help him to improve. His attitude all along has been one where, ‘I want to be coached.’ And Mike and Chris White, our assistant special teams coach, they’ve done a terrific job in helping him make some adjustments in some of the things he was doing technique-wise and we’re seeing the results of it this season. His approach mentally has been terrific and it’s shown on the field. He’s got ice water in his veins when it comes to making clutch kicks and doing the routine things as well. The fact that he’s very coachable has been a plus for us.
Q: Do you hesitate at all throwing Walsh out there in big spots?
A: Not at all. All those kicks yesterday, for the most part, were big kicks, in particular early on, and with distance. We felt comfortable putting him out there. We weren’t afraid we would be in a situation where we were putting ourselves on a shorter field. We felt very confident that once he went out there, it was a very good chance that he would make the kick and he did. Five-for-five, he had a terrific day.
Q: What were your expectations in training camp for Walsh? You couldn’t have thought he would be this good, would you?
A: I think going back to the conversations we had in the spring with Rick [Spielman] and the scouting staff, the expectations were high for whoever was going to be our kicker in 2012. He has lived up to all expectations. We didn’t lower the bar when we picked him. We felt like that player at that position was going to play a vital role in our success this season. We expected and hoped that he would do what he’s doing now. He would be very good on kickoffs, which he’s been excellent with touchbacks and getting people pinned back so the drive starts could be better, he’s been terrific on field goals and extra points. Those were our expectations and he’s lived up to those, which has been great.
Q: What’s the plan with
A: We’ll continue to practice him much like we have the last couple of weeks, but with the mindset that we’re getting him ready to play this week because he’s eligible to play. We’ll have to see how he does as the week goes on, but our goal is to try to get him up if he shows that he’s ready for that. We’ll make that determination later in the week.
Q: Is Cook a candidate to be a starter or just give him spot reps?
A: We’ll have to see how he does during the week and see how he comes along from a conditioning standpoint, as well as some of things we’ll ask him to do game plan wise and then we’ll make a decision later in the week.
Q: Have you ever seen anything like this where defenses are making such an effort to stop one player and are just unable to do it?
A: Well, when you have a guy like Adrian, teams are doing the right thing. That’s the only way you’re going to have a chance because if you’re playing two-high, it’s going to create a lot of problems for your defense. We expect a lot of single-high safety and a lot of guys in the box and for good reason. He’s on the verge of breaking a record that many thought would never be broken. We expect it and we’re preparing for it again this week. Houston is a very good team against the run. It won’t be any different
Q: Are you looking to limit
A: Yeah, we probably will. We’re at that point in the season where we really have to monitor his reps in practice, the fact that he’s been a little bit sore as well. You saw where we pulled him maybe about 10 minutes to go in that game yesterday just to preserve him a little bit. We’ll be smart, we need him to play well on Sundays, get his reps in practice that he needs without over-taxing him. It’s been a formula that’s worked well for us. He’s playing at a high level for us, so we need to protect him.
Q: What did you think of
A: He did a real good job for us. That interception he made, along with some of the pressures that he created while he was rushing, he did an outstanding job. He usually doesn’t play quite that many reps and to come in and consistently play as hard as he did for as long as he did, that’s a good sign for our football team. We hoped that he’d be able to do it and he did so very, very encouraged.
Q: How much did his experience as a linebacker at training camp help him with the interception?
A: That’s one of the attributes that he has. He’s one of those guys who can drop back in coverage but yet he can put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer as well and that makes him unique in that regard. That’s one of the reasons we looked at him as linebacker. Some of the traits that you saw on that play were linebacker traits, the catch, the turn, and of course the run as well. You just don’t see a D-lineman able to run down the sideline the way that he did. He’s a very fluid athlete and you definitely could see some of those linebacker traits.
Q: What are the strengths of the Texan’s defense?
A: The personnel definitely makes a difference. J.J. Watt, and I have to get into a little more study on their defense, but just recalling some of the things we saw in the preseason when we played them in that last preseason game, we looked a little bit of tape, J.J. Watt is an outstanding player and their D line, they do a terrific job. But their secondary, it’s a pretty good secondary, they play a lot of man coverage. They don’t deviate from what they do and Wade [Phillips] has always been heavy on eight in the box. That’s been him, wherever he’s been. He’s a staunch believer in stopping the run and finding some corners that can play man-to-man. They found that in Houston and that’s one of the reasons their defense has improved the way it has. They have a special guy up front with some guys in the secondary at safety and corner who can really cover that allows them to play that eight man front.
Q: Is it unique for a 3-4 defensive end to have all those sacks and forced fumbles?
A: Not necessarily, but when you just look back at San Diego when Wade was there, when [Shawne] Merriman was having his best years, it was similar. He got a lot of sacks, he created a lot of havoc on defense. You see the same thing with J.J. Watt there. He’s creating the same kind of problems that Merriman did in the same system in San Diego when Wade was the coordinator.
Q: What is the difference between last year and this year at this time in the locker room?
A: It’s a good difference. We were playing a different style of ball and the approach is definitely different. But we do have a lot of guys with a lot of pride who want to play well and yesterday’s game was an indication of it. They wanted to get a win on the road in the worst way to keep things going in the right direction, but every year is different in our League. There’s a different group of guys, different attitude, different approach, but kudos to this group of guys for just focusing on the now and not the past or the future, just the now, which is good.
Q: What kind of adjustments did you make in yesterday’s game after the first couple of series where they were bottling up
A: I think the thing that kind of helped us was some of the nakeds (bootlegs) that were run early where we were able to get Christian on the perimeter a little bit. It made them take a little bit off of what they were trying to do as far as bringing a lot of people to the line of scrimmage. They had to step back at some point and say, ‘We need to play a little coverage’. Once we got them in that mode where every now and then they would think coverage as opposed to just getting a lot of people to the line of scrimmage, we were able to create some openings in their defense. It was obvious their game plan was to just have a lot of people at the line of scrimmage to try and get penetration. Being able to run some of those boots and hit some of those crossers kind of helped us a little bit to loosen things up some.
Q: Any concern with the heat down there come Sunday as far as affecting your team and will you heat this place up during the week?
A: Good question, because we are going to heat this place up, our players don’t know that but on Wednesday, when our players come back, we’re going to warm it up a little bit. They’re predicting about 72, 75, which is a lot different than where we are right now so we’re going to try to simulate that as best as we can in our indoor. We’re going to try to warm it up a little bit for them.
Q: How hot can you get it in here?
A: I don’t know, but we’re going to try to get it close to game-time temperatures, that’s what we’re going to shoot for. It’s not exactly the way it will be with the fans and so on but we’re going to try to get the temperatures about what they’ll be like on game day at game time.