Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good morning everybody. Big week for us, playing a team that played in the NFC Championship game a year ago and playing real good football, San Francisco. Started off 2-0 with two big wins against two NFC North teams that we’re very familiar with and we’re going to have our hands full in our preparation but I think we’re all looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to getting back on the practice field and preparing for this game against a very, very good football team.
Q: You’ve sustained drives on offense. How important is it to have some big plays to make it a little easier?
A: You’d like to get some explosives, we talk about it all the time. That does help when you’re trying to put points on the board. It takes a little bit off the offense and really challenges the defense when it happens. But, at the same time, being able to grind it out and control the tempo of the game and the clock is a plus as well, as long as you’re putting the ball in the end zone. There are different ways to get it done but we’d definitely like to get a few more explosive plays in our offense, for sure.
Q: Are there any guidelines Christian Ponder is under as far as when he can or should throw deep?
A: It depends on the play call and what the coverage is. Sometimes that dictates where the ball goes, usually that dictates where the ball goes. Sometimes you can predict when the situation is going to occur when we can get it down the field and the play call is designed for that. But, if the coverage is there, then we have other outlets that are a part of the play. It depends a little bit on the defense and what we have called.
Q: How did you grade Christian’s decision-making against Indianapolis?
A: I thought he did a real good job. I mean, he did a lot of good things for us. If there was one play he could take back, it was probably the one where they got the sack-fumble but other than that, he did a good job for us, especially what he did in that fourth quarter. As a whole, we’d like to turn those field goals early in the game to touchdowns and not have setbacks in drives but I thought he did a good job.
Q: On those fumbles, is he just looking downfield to make a play?
A: The one that we had on Sunday, just waiting for someone to get open and may have had a little bit longer than he needed to but he’s learning. There were other opportunities like that in the game where he got rid of the ball. We’re seeing growth, which is a big deal at his position and with him in particular. He’s getting better.
Q: How encouraged have you been with is accuracy?
A: It’s a big deal. The hard work that he put in during the offseason, honing in on where the ball should go and what spot the ball should be placed at, it’s paying off because we’re seeing it in the game. He’s really improved in that area and we’re benefitting from his improvement. You’d just like to see it continue.
Q: Did the Colts take away the vertical game?
A: We took some shots. We tried, had one down the middle of the field to Percy (Harvin), we tried it with Michael (Jenkins) in the right end zone, our bench side. We wanted to take more shots and we had a couple of things called, it just didn’t materialize, but we wanted to be able to take some shots against their defense.
Q: What role do you see Randy Moss playing in this weekend’s game?
A: I’m not sure about his role. I know watching on tape, they utilize him quite a bit and they bring him in in different packages and he’s playing well for them, making some plays for their offense and it seems like he’s always motivated to play. He’s had a great NFL career as we all know. He had a lot of great years here in Minnesota and we have to do a good job, we have to line up against him. He can still make plays, evidenced by the things we’re seeing on tape. I would expect he’ll be up for this game like he is for every game. You look at his career, he’s had a great career. There aren’t many games where it seems like he wasn’t prepared to play. I’m sure he’ll be prepared to play against us on Sunday.
Q: Has he changed from a deep threat to more of a possession receiver?
A: They still take some shots with him down the field. There are times they are trying to get behind the secondary with him. He still shows that if you blink, he can run by you. He has got that ability. He really seems to be rejuvenated in their offense. He’s doing a good job.
Q: How close or how far are your defensive backs to being ‘ball hawks?’
A: We’re close on some opportunities and I’m hoping this week that we’ll get a couple. This is a team that does not turn the ball over. We need some turnovers, whether it’s a caused fumble or an interception and I’m hopeful, this is a week where we are ball hawks against a team that doesn’t turn it over very much, set a record a year ago with the least amount of turnovers in our League. It’ll be a challenge in that area but if there was ever a week you’d want to get some turnovers, this would be it.
Q: What are they doing to limit turnovers?
A: It’s hard to say. There have been other teams who have done it but to be able to do it two years in a row, we’ll see. Last year, they did a terrific job of protecting the ball, obviously. Having 10 turnovers in a season is pretty incredible but they obviously must put a heavy emphasis on not turning the ball over and you mentioned it, every team does but somehow they find a way to do it better than anyone else. Credit to them.
Q: Is Alex Smith more than a game manager now?
A: I think he is. He’s making some plays for their offense down the field, not just intermediate routes, which was the knock on him in the past, he’ll complete balls down the field. He is very accurate. Their system really seems to suit him well. They do a great job of running the ball and play-action pass and moving him around in the pocket and he’s thrived in this system, he’s done very well. He plays with a lot of confidence and he seems to really have a command of what they want to get done at the quarterback position. He’s definitely more than a game manager. I think that NFC Playoff game against New Orleans kind of speaks to that. He’s much more than a game manager.
Q: Are defenses giving Adrian Peterson the same respect this season that they did the first half of last season when he was healthy?
A: Yeah, we saw it last week against Indy. The first ball game we got more two high safety, which we were surprised that they would defend us that way and I’m sure it was partially because of Adrian coming back and not being certain of where he was. As the game went on that philosophy changed in the first game and for sure against Indy it was a lot more eight man fronts as the game went on. He’s coming along and I think people are to the point right now where they’re saying, ‘you know what, we have to make sure we’re defending 28.’ We’re seeing that and we’re expecting that again. San Francisco has an outstanding rush defense, led the League a year ago in rush defense, so we’ll be challenged to run the football but we’ll need to be able to run.
Q: If they are starting to give him that respect again, are you surprised there aren’t more opportunities deep in the passing game?
A: Well we hope that there will be some on this Sunday and we would like to be able to take advantage; that’s one of the things that you like to think you can benefit from is having a good run game and be able to connect on some plays down the field. As I mentioned, we tried in that game against Indy and we weren’t able to connect and we’re going to try again this week if we get people crowding the line of scrimmage.
Q: How close do you think Adrian is to 100% at this point?
A: I think he’s pretty close, he’s doing just about everything you would expect, he’s close. If you talk to him he’ll say he’s not quite there yet and you have to take him at his word but he’s doing a lot of good things where he is, whatever number that is. He’s playing well.
Q: Is there anything you would do different from a schematic approach in those late-game situations where they’re trying to get a drive or is that strictly execution?
A: When you don’t come through sometimes you look at it and try to figure out what you could have done differently. That’s exactly what we talked about; what could we have done differently in either case. There are probably some things we’d like to do a little bit better and we have to get that done as we go forward. You hate to come up on this short end when you don’t come through like we did in this past ball game, but we have to learn from it and we have to be better at it because we’re going to find ourselves in other situations like that, that’s the way a lot of our games are. We have to learn from it and be better.
Q: Is there a fine line between being aggressive and trying to come up with a play in that situation and also not putting yourself in the position where they can hit you deep?
A: It is a fine line. You have to find that balance when you want to play zone or man or pressure and try to make those decisions. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to keep coming up with ways to try to defend those situations and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
Q: Because you have such a young secondary, do you feel at all limited in what you can call defensively?
A: I don’t want to put it on the youth of our secondary, as much as our just being able to continue to play together as a group on defense and growing together. You do have to be mindful of the experience that you have in the secondary, particularly when we get into situations where people have multiple wideouts and then you have more young guys on the field, but I don’t know if they’re putting handcuffs on what we want to do. We just know that we do have some youth in the secondary.
Q: Do you expect Jarius Wright to be active on Sunday and at this point what can he do to help?
A: He finished the week pretty good, coming off that ankle injury, so we’re expecting him to be ready this week. We’ll see, we’ll know better after today’s practice, but he was getting better at the end of the week. Everything with talking with Eric Sugarman and our staff, we think he’ll be ready this week. If he is and he’s able to get up, we’d like to utilize his abilities. We think he has some talent and he could give us something, so we’ll see how he practices this week and then make a decision.
Q: How are you doing otherwise from the injury perspective?
A: We’re pretty good, everybody should be practicing today and suited up and ready to go. We’re in pretty good shape.
Q: A lot of tributes pouring in with Steve Sabol; have you ever met him or is there a lasting image that you think of?
A: Thanks for asking that because Steve was a good man and we know the impact that NFL Films has had on the popularity of the National Football League. I got to know him during my time in Philadelphia; their location in New Jersey is maybe just five minutes from where my family and I lived. We would have a chance to conversate on my playing days and what NFL Films was like back then compared to now. He was just a great human being who really loved the game. Just talking to him about his dad and the vision that his dad had, and then his being able to carry on that vision and help with bringing the NFL players to the homes of the fans to the point where we were more than people with helmets on and shoulder pads. It just gave you an inside look of the behind the scenes look at the NFL and its players. It had a great deal of due where the League is today from a popularity standpoint. Our hearts and well wishes go out to he and his family. He’ll be missed, he’ll be sorely missed. He was a great ambassador for our game.
Q: The 49ers bring one of the more of the more well-rounded attacks to this game both offensively and defensively; is there one thing you can pin point that might cause you the most trouble this week?
A: They do a great job of running the football on offense. When you’re averaging, I think they’re averaging 167 yards running the ball right now, which is amazing, and you’re as physical as they are on defense, you can present some problems for any offense, which has been proven in these first two games against Green Bay and Detroit. That alone will create challenges for us; how physical they are on both sides of the ball and how well they run the ball and defend the run. That’s something that we can relate to here, just seeing what they’re doing on offense and defense and even their special teams. They play well; they’re a very physical group so everything I just mentioned presents challenges to any team that faces them.
Q: Is that as close to a template for what you want to establish here as there is in the NFL right now?
A: We talk about our being able to run the football, run it effectively and defend the run; those are things we want to be able to do and play well on special teams. We’ll not deviate from those goals of ours and that’s where we’re planning on being and that’s where we intend to be. We’ll continue to work in that direction.
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
It’s a big week for us. Obviously, we’re moving past from the last game and focusing on San Francisco. Just watching them on film and knowing what they did last year and what they did this year, obviously a great defense. Tops in the League. Not very complicated. They’re kind of what you see is what you get. I think they just trust their personnel. They have great personnel, great front seven and their defensive backs are really good and they turn the ball over. I think they were number one in the League in creating turnovers last year so it’s going to be a tough challenge for us and myself as a quarterback. We’re going to put in a lot of hard work this week and learn from our mistakes last week. We’re looking for progression and that’s what we’re focused on, taking a big step this week. The good thing for us is we’re at home. It’s a big advantage for us. We love playing at the Metrodome and getting our fans into it and I think that’s going to be good home field advantage for us. We’re going to keep playing our game and be consistent in what we do and just keep getting better.
Q: How do you grade out your decision making against the Colts?
A: It was OK. I forced a throw to Percy [Harvin] over the middle that was almost picked, there were some other things, getting outside the pocket and getting rid of the ball instead of taking sacks. There are some other things that I can get better at but overall it was OK.
Q: The offense has done a good job sustaining drives. Is the next step in the progression hitting a few big plays?
A: Yeah, that’s one thing we’re lacking is big plays and obviously we want to strive to get better at it to make the progressions of making those plays. But, we aren’t going to force things downfield and we’re just going to take what the defense gives us. But, we’re going to do some things to try to create big plays. That’s one area we need to get better at.
Q: Do you have guidelines on what you can and can’t do as far as taking chances down the field?
A: Yeah, there are always options. On pretty much every play there are options to go downfield. If we get a certain look from a defense, we will take a shot, but right now we’re not getting those certain looks.
Q: Taking care of the ball is important but is it even more important when you’re playing an offense that doesn’t turn it over?
A: Yeah, last year I think they set an NFL record with only 10 turnovers, which is pretty unbelievable. Obviously, they are pretty smart with the football and they are a ball-control offense. They like to have the ball in their possession, in their hands, so we need to make sure we are mistake free and hold on to the ball and don’t give them any chances and opportunities to score. We’re going to keep playing our game and not worry about it, but that is a standard that needs to be set, that we don’t want any turnovers in any game, regardless of who it is.
Q: How close is Adrian Peterson back to being 100 percent?
A: He’s very close. I don’t know if he’s not 100 percent. He looks good running the ball. He’s just got to get back into the groove of things being out on the field, but he looks completely fine and he’s running the ball really well.
Q: Do you think defenses are still respecting Adrian?
A: Yeah, I think so. We are getting a lot of Cover Two looks but at the same time we’ll get a lot of quarter safeties that will come down to play both the pass and run and we’ll get some single high. I think they are definitely still respecting his running ability and if not, we’ll just keep running the ball.
Q: Can you take anything out of seeing these guys for a few series in the preseason?
A: It’s not too schematically different. They were basic but so were we at that same point in time. We moved the ball against them and it was the same personnel. The only person that didn’t play was Justin Smith, but other than that, we played well against them. Obviously, they’re going to do some different things and we’re going to do some different things. It’s a game we’ve gone back and watched and they’re not doing anything crazy different than what they did, but it was good to see when we had some success against them.
Q: Do you have to account for a guy like Justin Smith on every play because he moves around a lot?
A: Yeah, he does. Consistently, he’s going to be on our left side, but he does move out to defensive end from defensive tackle, inside and out. He’s a great player. He stuffs the run, he’s very physical and someone that we have to account for and play well against.
Q: As you start to go to Percy Harvin more and more, do you see defenses shifting their focus towards him?
A: Yeah, Indianapolis started to double him a little bit. I remember on a specific play for a first down, we still got the ball completed to him, but they tried to double him. I’m sure teams, especially San Francisco, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to double him. Watching the film against Detroit, they doubled Calvin Johnson most of the game so they’ll probably try to take him away.
Q: Is Percy the kind of talent that can handle this kind of work load all year?
A: I think so. He’s definitely tough enough and he’s physical enough so I think he’s going be fine.