Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon everybody. This smile on my face is definitely a reflection of yesterday and the way our players played, just so proud of the effort they gave over the course of four quarters and then in that final overtime as well. There were a lot of good things, so many things that we learned about ourselves throughout that game. There are obviously things we have to work on to improve on, the tape will show that and we’ll get a chance to go through that with our players today. It’s a lot more fun making those corrections after a win, which is good for our football team. From an injury standpoint we came out pretty good. We didn’t really sustain any major injuries so we should have everybody participate this week in practice and getting ready for this ball game. We may get
Q: What is the long-term psychological value of having that victory?
A: It’s hard to measure other than it’s a great feeling for our team from a confidence standpoint. One of the things we emphasized throughout this offseason was finishing and being able to execute under pressure and our guys did that yesterday. They had moments where they could have easily folded and said, this game is over, particularly after that long pass at the end of the game but they didn’t. There are some things that we can draw on where our players will have confidence in the future and win close ball games; that we can finish with a win. That’s something you can build on as a team.
Q: Did you see plays
A: I don’t think there is one more evident than that two-minute situation that we had. There were a number of moments like that a season ago where we needed just one play that could have turned the game in our favor in the fourth quarter and we couldn’t find a way to make that play. For Christian to make that throw to
Q: Did you give Ponder more opportunities to call audibles at the line of scrimmage and was the one to
A: We have two minute situations that we’ve pretty much gone through. That situation, we actually practiced it back in Mankato and even in the offseason here so we’ve kind of gone through that and talked about how we would handle that situation. He was working off script so to say but it’s different in a game situation with the pressure on than in practice. Our two minutes, we have an idea of how we want to do every situation and he knows what those situations call for.
Q: What changed in Ponder from the start of the game?
A: I think that two-minute sequence right before the half was big for him and for our team. We were able to get points on the board. We were struggling early on to get first downs on offense, but that sequence really gave him some confidence and we got the ball to the end zone. In the second half he lit it up, I think he went 17 for 20 in the second half. We were talking to him throughout on the sideline and our coaches were encouraging him; we talked about this being a four-quarter type of game. We don’t expect to play many games, if any, where we are going to be blowing someone out in the fourth quarter. We’re going to have some moments where we’re a little bit stagnant and good teams find a way to work through those, good quarterbacks find a way to work through those and that’s what he did. That’s a good sign for us that he worked through some tough moments early on and finished as well as he finished.
Q: Are there ways you have to find to get
A: We’re always trying to find ways to get him the football whether it’s coming out of the backfield, lining up in the backfield, bending the slot or bending outside, reverses, kickoffs, whatever; we’re always trying to find ways to get him the ball and we’ll continue to do that and give it to him in different ways. He’s such a factor with the ball in his hands even if you have to do it on those smoke screens that we ran in this game. Whatever you have to do to get the ball in his hands to give him a chance to make plays, we’ve all seen the results of it. He turned what should have been maybe three or four yard gains into big plays for us. He is a special guy with that football in his hands.
Q: You get the ball with 1:51 left and hold it for only 33 seconds; how do you balance staying committed to your power running identity and not being too conservative?
A: We would like to be better in that four-minute situation, that’s one of the things we’ll talk about when we get together with the team today. You want to be able to run the ball when people know that you have to run; we have to get to the point where we can do that. There are going to be more games where we’re going to have to be able to take time off the clock. We’ll have to figure out a way to get a first down and we’ll have to get to the point where we are able to throw the ball in those situations as well. Right now, where we are, we took the approach we thought was necessary but we have to find a way to move the football a little bit better than we did yesterday.
Q: Did the penalty on
A: It messed us up big time, can’t have that.
Q: How much more time would you have liked to run off?
A: It would have been about 1:03, 1:01, which would have been great with no timeouts at that point for them. Now you get them back in a backed up situation having to drive the football 80 yards down the field; that was our goal, 80, 85 yards. For us to have a penalty just discourages everything you’re trying to get done. You stop the clock, you give them a chance to conserve a timeout, just not what you want. We have to be smart in that situation and good teams don’t allow that to happen. We have to be better than that in that situation.
Q: How close are you to reaching that power running identity and being able to run the clock down?
A: We’re not that far away, some of it is getting more repetitions with the group that we have. This is the first time that this unit has played together in a game situation upfront. We have to continue to work together so that we can get more confidence in moments like those that we can get more movement in our offensive linemen and our backs can have confidence that holes are going to be there for them. A part of it will just be our playing together a little bit longer and being able to believe when those situations come up.
A: No, he hasn’t come in the training room, hasn’t complained at all. So far, so good.
Q: Christian Ponder said he was trying to press urgency earlier in the game. Is that important?
A: We like to always get off to a good start. I know he would, he leads our offense. There are going to be some times where things don’t quite go the way you want early in the game but his sticktoitiveness throughout the game, that’s one of the things that was really encouraging for me and I think our entire team, that he didn’t get discouraged, he didn’t get down on himself and as much as he wanted to get off to a fast start, it didn’t happen but he didn’t go in the tank. He just continues to stay with it and good things happen over the course of the four quarters.
Q: What was your assessment of
A: He played a good game. For his rookie debut, to come out and work as hard as he did against what we consider a pretty good front, Jeremy Mincey is a good defensive end and so is Andre Branch, both of those guys are, Jeremy in particular is a very good player. I thought he held his own in the run game, did a very good job in pass protection as well, just a lot of things that we can build on. There were a few errors that we want to correct. There are some things that he knows he has to get better at but that’s going to be a part of his maturing as an offensive tackle as well but a lot of good things on tape by him.
Q: How did
A: I thought he did a good job. He had maybe one missed tackle but his angles, he had a nice deflection there late in the game, moved around well, was in the right position, made some good plays. When I look at the tape, he brought a smile to my face a few different times because he was where he needed to be and that’s important when you’re a guy who plays in the secondary. Being where you’re supposed to be while other guys on the defense can trust that you’re going to carry out your assignment and he was there, he was where he needed to be and when he had an opportunity to make plays, he made plays for the most part.
Q: Does it make sense to target the same number of carries for Adrian going forward?
A: I think we still have to be somewhat cautious. Now Adrian won’t want to hear that but we still have to keep a rotation going between he and Toby (Gerhart). I don’t think we can, at this point, say, ‘Adrian, look forward to carrying the ball 20-25 times.’ I don’t think we’re at that point quite yet but before the game, I wouldn’t have said that he would have been able to carry it 17 either. He’s very unique in so many ways but I think we’ll go forward knowing that he is coming off of major knee surgery and it will only be his second game since that surgery and full participation. We’ll be somewhat cautious.
Q: Did you ask him during the game if he could go some more? Did you ask him how he was doing after 10 carries?
A: Yeah, our running backs coach James Saxon was in constant communication with him throughout the game. We had talked about this beforehand, that that conversation needed to be going on all throughout the game, you know, ‘How are you doing? How are you coming along? Are you fatigued? Do you have any soreness?’ There was constant communication. Every conversation was positive. There were some moments where we brought him out and he got a little bit winded but he continued to want to participate and there were no ill-effects from it. He did a great job.
Q: After assessing it, can you continue to win that way?
A: I don’t know. I just know in our League you just have to find ways to win, even if you don’t play your best game. Even the best teams I’ve been on, they find a way. Somebody will make a play, even if we didn’t have a good day. There are enough players on the team that believe that somebody will make a play as long as the game stays close. You’d like to be able to get in situations where one day we can run away from people in the fourth quarter and hopefully that day will come but I think the way we’re built right now, we’re going to play a lot of close games and we have to find a way to win those games in the fourth quarter and fortunately for us yesterday, we found a way. People made plays on both sides of the ball and of course Blair (Walsh) did as well. That may be who we are. We’ll see as the season goes on.
Q: You’re kind of bracing for a wild ride?
A: It could be. Who knows? We may hit a stride and start blowing people out. That would be awesome. I’ll be a lot less tense on the sidelines, believe me. It’s just so rare in our League to blow teams out. You just know that you’re going to be in close ball games and you have to find a way to make some plays and some of it is because of your doing. Now maybe you didn’t do some things you should have done early on, but sometimes it’s just the fact that it’s the NFL and the other team you’re playing against, they’re pretty good also. A lot of tight games, that’s the way it goes.
Q: What concerns you most about Jacksonville’s 17-play scoring drive they had?
A: Third downs. We had them in situations we want to get teams in, a lot of third-and-seven plus. We didn’t find a way to make a play and that could create problems. Fortunately for us, 17 plays, three points. You’ll take that when that happens and from an offensive standpoint, you’re kicking yourself because you didn’t get it in the end zone. When we get teams in third-and-eight, third-and-nine, we have to find a way to get off the field. We have to improve on that. That was discouraging and that will definitely be a point of emphasis when we sit down and talk this afternoon.
Q: How much of a concern was the tackling?
A: We had some missed tackles at times but I thought overall, our tackling was pretty good, especially considering we’re in the first game of the season. I wasn’t as down about that as I was about our third down inefficiency early in the game. Got better in the second half, but the situations we had them in, we have to do better.
Q: Were you getting enough from the pass rush?
A: I thought we had some good hits on the quarterback from our front, particularly
Q: Seemed like some of Adrian’s runs were to the middle or the right side. How effective can that grouping be?
A: We think it can be an effective group in totality, not just the right side but in some of what we do, you’re trying to figure out what’s the best thing for Adrian and where is he going to have the most success and I’m sure people will look at tape and try to figure that out as well as they try to get a handle on how we are using him but some of it has to do with what runs we think are better for him at this point as opposed to running behind a particular lineman.
Q: How impressed were you with
A: I have so much respect for Antoine. To experience the loss he experienced this week and to come to work, to work as hard as he did and then to play in the ball game and play as well as he did, I don’t know if I could have done that. I don’t know many people that could have done that. Just a very courageous young man, a very strong young man and his teammates, they were very supportive. They were pulling for him. A lot of guys were encouraging him throughout the game and throughout the week as well. I have tremendous respect for him. My heart goes out to he and his family. I know how difficult this is for them and we’re going to try to be there to support him and his family. Our whole organization will.
Q: Is Brian Robison set for a breakout year here?
A: He got off to a great start yesterday. I think he is in position to hopefully have a breakout season. It would be great for our team if that happens but the way he played yesterday, he’s well on his way. Now can you put it together week in and week out? Because he got off to a great start a year ago. We’d love to see him consistently bring pressure like he did yesterday and that allows us to blitz less and even help our secondary more but he’s off to a great start. He had a great camp, great offseason, didn’t miss anything and it was great to see yesterday. Would love to see him do it again against the team we’re playing this coming Sunday.