Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon. It’s a great feeling to come in on a Monday and know that at this point of the season, at the end of the first quarter of the season, that the Minnesota Vikings are in first place in our division, which is great for our team. Lot of football ahead of us, a lot of work to be done between now and December but this first quarter we’re very pleased with where our team is and some of the things that we’re doing, although we know we have a lot of room for improvement, there’s a lot of work to be done. We’ll work towards trying to improve. We came out pretty good injury wise. Michael Jenkins had a rib contusion, he came back in the game. Other than that, everybody else finished pretty good. Erin Henderson still hasn’t been cleared yet. We’ll hopefully have an update sometime today or tomorrow but at this point, has not been cleared. Most of the other guys that competed, we should have them at practice on Wednesday. Some may be more limited than others but we should be in pretty good shape. I just can’t say enough about our special teams. To come up with 14 points on special teams, to open the game with a kickoff return, open the half with a punt return; pretty good stuff. Mike Priefer did a great job of preparing our guys throughout the week. He saw some things on tape that he thought we could take advantage of and sure enough, just like we practiced, it came to fruition. Then our defense playing the way they played, a suffocating defense throughout. That was a very good offense we faced. Averaging almost 30 points a game and to hold them to 13 points and one touchdown. To limit Calvin Johnson, one of the best wide receivers in our game, to five catches for 50 some yards, to stuff their run game. Just a great effort all the way across the board by our defense. Our offense played well, no turnovers. Christian [Ponder] may be the only quarterback in our League that hasn’t turned the ball over. To rush for over 100 yards, Adrian’s [Peterson] first 100-yard rushing game since his injury. Just a lot of good things. I liked the way our offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, did a good job of opening up holes. A team victory on the road against a divisional opponent, it’s a hard thing to do. It’s hard to win on the road and our guys found a way to make it happen. Very excited about some of the things that are happening at this point.
Q: What changed defensively?
A: I think some of it was the mentality but also, Alan [Williams] getting a groove for our players and getting a better understanding and feel for how to utilize some of our players. But for sure, our players also taking some ownership in some of the things we were trying to do and really wanting to set the tone as a defense about how we play, it’s been great to see. We’ve only played four games but they were doing some good things. We were struggling a little bit in some two-minute situations but they were doing some good things. They’ve really amped it up and played extremely well these last couple of weeks. I think there’s a combination of Alan getting a better feel for our guys, how to utilize them, and then our players taking some ownership in some of the things we’re asking them to do.
Q: How do you think this team will handle success?
A: I think a lot better than we did after week one. Just seeing how we responded after the Indy game and then coming back after San Francisco. I think we’re maturing, I think we’re growing as a team. This will be a little heavy for them; this is new territory for most of our guys. I have a feel they’ll handle it the right way.
Q: You didn’t blitz much; was that a game plan to help out with Calvin Johnson and the other receivers in the secondary?
A: Yeah, it was a game plan decision. We had some things up for this game just in case but really didn’t have to go to them. We did a great job with our four-man rush with Jared [Allen] and Brian [Robison], Letroy Guion along with Kevin [Williams]. I thought they did a great job throughout the day. Everson Griffen putting pressure on the quarterback without our having to blitz, he had him running around all day long. When that happens, you don’t have to bring pressure. We were able to not give up the big plays over the top of the defense, wasn’t necessary.
Q: What do you attribute the team’s focus to?
A: We’ve been hitting on it, from that Indy game on, just how important the focus and the preparation have to be every single week and I think you have to attribute our leadership on the team, guys buying in to what we’re talking about and then spreading it in the locker room and I think our coaches just setting the tone for our players as to how we need to practice, what needs to happen to be successful in this League and then it goes back to the leadership on the team saying, ‘Okay, they’re right. This is what we need to do.’ Then spreading it and making sure guys are doing that. So, a combination of what our coaching staff is doing along with the leadership on our team.
Q: When you look at the defense, how much is confidence and how much is scheme?
A: I think that’s part of it but also having the necessary tools to execute the game plan. That, to me, is more, I don’t want to say more important but as important as having a good game plan. When you’ve got the tools to work with in the secondary, your game plan can be executed, goals can be accomplished. We’re better in the secondary than we have been in the past. We made some plays yesterday on a couple of balls that, I don’t know if a year ago we would have made those plays. I think a combination of having better talent along with guys understanding what’s being asked of them, it’s a combination of why we played as well as we did in the secondary.
Q: Are you surprised about how the depth of your defense has come through?
A: Not completely because that was one of the goals. I know when Rick (Spielman) and the personnel department talked about what we were trying to get accomplished from a roster standpoint, that was one of the major conversations, improving our depth. We know we’re going to have some injuries, we’ve experienced injuries here in the past couple of years, in the secondary in particular, so that was a point of emphasis, to improve our depth, to upgrade it to the point where if there was an injury, there wouldn’t be such a big drop-off that we’ve witnessed here in the past and I credit our scouting department for doing a good job in that area so now when we rotate defensive linemen, you don’t feel as handcuffed as you would in the past. You lose a guy at linebacker, you don’t feel as strained as you do in the past and the same is true in our secondary. You hope that you don’t have injuries, but they do occur and depending on where that injury occurs, it could really have a major impact on your team, if you don’t have quality depth and fortunately for us, I think we have pretty good depth.
Q: When Erin Henderson and Mistral Raymond are ready to come back, would there be any hesitancy to make a switch?
A: No, I don’t think so. Hopefully we’ll get Erin back here real soon and we’ll get him going again and with Mistral, a few more weeks but when they’re able to play, we’ll plug them right back in.
Q: With Erin, would that include nickel defense as well?
A: Jasper (Brinkley) has played pretty good. He did a good job yesterday against a high-powered passing offense. We’ll have to take a real hard look at where he is in the passing game and where Erin will be when he comes back so we’ll talk about it when Erin gets back.
Q: With some of the plays Harrison Smith has made, how much does that make an offense change what they are looking at?
A: I think it definitely sends a message. I mean, the hits that Jamarca (Sanford) delivered yesterday along with what Harrison did, both of those safeties did a real good job of putting some stuff on tape that opposing offenses will look at and hopefully, think twice about going in those areas. I think it does send a message.
Q: What are you most impressed with in Letroy Guion?
A: Yeah, he’s become so much more professional about his work and his approach to work and we talked a lot during the offseason. He really wanted to show his teammates along with our staff that he was taking his job more serious. He was awarded a contract in the offseason, he was very grateful for that and I expressed to him that the way to show your gratitude is to be a pro about your business, about what you have to do on the football field and he spent a lot more time in the classroom and studying and preparing for opponents and it’s showing up on the field. He’s playing exceptionally well for us, but he’s taking his game to another level as far as his preparation. He’s had the physical tools, but now he’s really becoming a student of the game.
Q: Did Adrian Peterson seem to have a little more burst yesterday?
A: I thought so. I thought, like I mentioned last night, he looked more like the Adrian of old than at any point in this young season. He had some runs that showed the strength, the power, the elusiveness that we’ve seen in the past and it was just great to see. There was no hitch anywhere. He looked good.
Q: Was the Lions game plan focused on taking Percy Harvin out of the game?
A: No doubt about it. There were a number of times we looked and they have guys bracketing and they rotated the safeties to play the reverse. They had a good plan, a good Percy plan and fortunate for us, we were able to run the football as well as we were and we were able to get some plays down the field to Jerome [Simpson] that helped us get some explosive plays. It was a good job by Detroit. Credit them for what they did.
Q: Was there something you saw with Detroit as to why you were running Adrian between the tackles so much?
A: No. We just felt like with this team and what they do and what we want to be able to do, these were the best runs, and it turned out to be the case so it was purely gameplan.
Q: When you see Adrian making those cuts, does it make you hold your breath a little bit?
A: Just relieved every time he makes a cut and he gets back up and jogs to the huddle. It’s just happy to see. You never want to take that for granted. He’s a special back, no question about it, and to see him run the way he ran yesterday, with such authority, and to continue to pound, even late in the game, is just good for our team.
Q: What have you seen from Everson Griffen?
A: He’s growing as a player, becoming much more physical in the run game. He’s not just a guy you count on in third down situations. We even got him in there on early down situations yesterday and he made some plays against the run. But, the fact that he gives us so much versatility as a defensive lineman who can play the defensive end position, he can play the tackle position, we drop him in coverage, we stand him up and play him like a linebacker, so his versatility allows us to do a lot of things on defense. He’s very, very valuable to us.
Q: When you put Toby Gerhart in, did Adrian need a break or did Gerhart need a confidence builder?
A: We wanted to get Toby in there. We have set moments where we want to get him in the ball game so a little bit of both. There were times where we wanted to get Adrian out to get him a breather but also to get Toby in because we want to be able to get him some reps also and take some of the reps off of Adrian.
Q: Was Jared Allen cramping?
A: Yeah. He started cramping some during the game and had to take him out and let someone else take those snaps.
Q: Can you talk about how the offensive line played?
A: I thought they played extremely well. Maybe their best game to this point, as a group. I thought they did a good job the week before but to open up holes the way they did and grind the ball in that fourth quarter the way we did when the opposing team knows you have to run the ball or you’re going to run the football because we’re trying to take a little clock. I’m impressed with the way Charlie [Johnson] played, Matt [Kalil] throughout, John [Sullivan]. That’s a pretty good defensive front they have over there. They do a good job of getting after your offensive line and our guys stood up, took it to them throughout and for us to rush for 100, that’s a good sign for us.
Q: A.J. Jefferson got as much playing time as he had yet this year, is that based on the personnel Detroit was putting out there or was it to give Josh Robinson a break because there were so many three receiver sets?
A: Josh, we had to take him out for a period of time where he was a little fatigued so we had to get A.J. in, but we did have some situations where we wanted A.J. in based on the personnel they had on the field but also, Josh got a little fatigued and we wanted to make sure he was hydrated properly and we took him off the field for a little bit.
Q: Was Josh Robinson’s unnecessary roughness penalty a legitimate penalty?
A: That’s one of the ones we’ll send into the League and get some clarification on because we’d like to get some clarification on that one. I know I would.
Q: It’s hard to coach a player not to hit, right?
A: Yeah, it seemed like a tackle. It just seemed like a tackle. Now, it was a hard tackle, but it is football so we’re going to get some clarification from the League.
Q: Has the League every sent anything out about hitting someone like that?
A: I’ve never seen anything written that we couldn’t tackle a guy that way so I’m interested to see what the League has to say.
Q: You talked about the younger players buying in, when did you start to see that process happen?
A: I go all the way back to when we came back on April 23rd and began our offseason conditioning program. The attendance was outstanding during that phase and it continued right on through OTAs, the mandatory minicamp. These are voluntary sessions but the attendance we had here gave me an indication that the guys were really hungry to have success and that’s what you need to see. We had over 90 percent participation throughout the offseason. When you’re trying to flip the script and trying to get things changed, changing the culture a little bit, you need everybody participating, otherwise you’re just talking to a small percentage of the team and we had great participation, which that’s where the process begins as far as turning things around for us this offseason. Once we got to training camp, guys had an understanding what was expected out of every position and every player.
Q: How much of the passing game struggles was due to them keying on Percy?
A: A lot of it had to do with what they were doing defensively and how they were defending our offense and some of it, once we got into, maybe midway through the third and late in the fourth, we had a different approach from an offensive standpoint. I think we’ll be fine in the passing game. I saw some things. We all saw some things that we think will help us going forward but we can also anticipate teams trying to defend us similarly to what Detroit did yesterday so we’ll have to adjust a little bit.
Q: We’re you pleased with the impact Jerome Simpson made?
A: Without question. Those P.I. penalties, to give us the field position they gave us, the threat that he gives us vertically, that catch he made late in the fourth quarter, that’s a big time catch. Great throw by Christian but that was pretty good coverage by that defensive back, but to make the play on the ball the way he did, we need that. Very, very impressed with some of the things he did in the short time we’ve had him.