Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
We had a good walkthrough this morning. I think our guys are ready to get started on this game plan and looking forward to playing in front of our fans at Mall of America Field. We really want it to be noisy in there. That will help us a great deal. That’s one of the big advantages to playing at Mall of America Field. We’ve all been there where moments occur where the opposing team has so much trouble functioning because of the noise and that’s what we’re hoping will be the case on Sunday. We’re going to do everything we can as a team to provide opportunities for it to get noisy in there. We’re hoping that place is packed to the rafters and it’s a very, very difficult place for our opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, to really do the things they want to be able to do. So, we’re looking forward to the game and it looks like we’re pretty healthy as we speak. The only guy that will probably miss work today will be Adrian (Peterson), we’re going to hold him back. Everybody else should be out there practicing and working towards getting ready for Sunday.
Q: Is it the ankle that Adrian is dealing with?
A: Still has a little soreness, yes.
Q: Not anymore of a concern now for his chances of playing Sunday?
A: No, should be fine for Sunday.
Q: Have you seen some renewed focus and energy this week?
A: Yeah, just as you grow as a team as the season goes on, I think our guys know how important it is to focus in on this next opponent and you have to move away from what has happened previously, win or loss, and we’ve done a pretty good job, just based on what I saw this morning in the meeting, I think we have moved on.
Q: Do you have concern that Percy Harvin never touched the ball during those redzone opportunities?
A: We had some things where we would have liked to try to get him the ball when he was in there on a couple of occasions but they did a good job on defense and on both he and Kyle (Rudolph), on some things that we had in place. As I said on Monday, credit Washington for some of the things they did and we’ll have to go back and just look at some things we’re doing and get some other people involved, but we had some things for Percy and it just didn’t work out.
Q: Christian has now had a full year of starts. How have you seen him evolve?
A: I think he’s obviously grown a great deal at that position, the quarterback position. His leadership shows up. Even though things weren’t perfect on Sunday for us by no means, to see him bounce back and help get us back in that ball game in the fourth quarter, that’s what you like to see out of your quarterback. Just the resiliency that’s necessary to lead your team back and I saw that in him. He never got down on himself, never took himself out of the game mentally and that’s a sign of his maturation as a player and you see it in his command of our offense, but at the same time, we notice this is his second year in our offense, the second year in the National Football League and there are going to be some bumps in the road. It’s a part of the process, but he’s come so far in a short time and he’ll only get better.
Q: Can you pin his inaccuracy in this past game on anything in particular?
A: We’ll always work with him on his mechanics. It was just a couple of throws that got away from him and he’s had a chance to look at it on tape now and Craig Johnson, his position coach, has talked him through some things, so we’ll always work mechanics and he’ll get better at it, he’ll get better.
Q: Did you feel like he was comfortable in the pocket?
A: I did. For the most part, he had a good pocket and there were times he had to move, they made him move, and he got off his spot a few times, but I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed about at this time.
Q: Is it encouraging seeing he can throw a lot of passes in the fourth quarter if necessary?
A: Very much so. We always talk about, there are going to be some games where you have to be able to win different ways and Sunday was one of those we needed to score and score fast, and he showed that he can help us to get that done when the game falls back almost entirely on him, so that’s encouraging, because there are going to be games like that where we have to score more points than we may have a week before. It is encouraging for entire offense, our staff, everybody.
Q: Jerome Simpson was frustrated about not being active. Have you had a chance to talk with him and do you expect him to be ready on Sunday?
A: I hope so. As I mentioned on Monday, he’s a competitor, he’s a guy who wants to be out there and we want him out there as well. He feels like he’ll be ready to go this afternoon and looking forward to getting him out there and getting him back involved in our offense. He’s a weapon that we sorely would love to have on the field. He has big-play capability and we want to utilize his abilities.
Q: Do you still want to see him take a step forward physically?
A: Oh, no question. Don’t want to put him in a situation where you feel like he can’t protect himself or do the things he needs to do to play at the level he wants to play at and that we want him to play at, for sure.
Q: So he is still working through some of the back issues and may be limited this week?
A: He says he’s fine so he’ll get a chance to practice today and go through everything so we’ll reassess it after practice, but he feels like he’s ready to go.
Q: What did you see in him that made you keep him inactive?
A: Just that Thursday and Friday when he worked, I just, even in talking with him, realized he couldn’t push off the way he wanted to. He wasn’t comfortable mentally completely with where he was and the way he plays, he’s an energetic guy who has such a passion for the game and if you take some of that away, some of his elusiveness, even after the catch, you’ve affected his game. Just wanted to be smart, give him a little bit more time. It’s a long season and he feels good today and that’s good sign so we’ll see how he does in practice.
Q: What impresses you most about Arizona’s defensive front and the things they do?
A: Both (Calais) Campbell and (Darnell) Dockett are guys who, boy, you really have to know where they are. They create havoc for your offensive line. They are terrific players and their ability to win the one-on-one’s always create problems and even when you have situations where you try to double the both of them, then they have some other people that can make plays, whether it be Adrian Wilson or whoever has a chance. They got some guys that can make plays, but Calais Campbell, his size alone creates problems and he has great strength and great athleticism along with Dockett. Both of those guys are a couple of the reasons why their defense is so stout and so good. They have a very, very good defense.
Q: Do you see some opportunities to get after their quarterback?
A: They’ve struggled a little bit up front. They’ll have a different quarterback this week so that’s going to change things a little bit. We’ll have to study John (Skelton) and get a better feel for him, but whether that improves the offensive line or not, we’ll find out. We really have to do a good job up front on our end.
Q: Arizona is the task at hand, but because of the short week, do you look at this as a two-game window heading into the half way point?
A: Well, I think what you said a moment ago is the truth. We have to really focus on this Arizona game. I did mention to our guys that we’ll have two games in a short span this week and we’re going to have both of those games at home, but it starts with Arizona. That’s where our focus has to be. We need to get this win at home for a lot of reasons. Our focus has to be on this game, the Arizona game.
Q: Have you done any advanced game planning knowing there is a quick turnaround?
A: I was talking with our staff about that yesterday. Some guys are able to move ahead, I’m not one of them, never was, even as an assistant. It’s hard for me to even think about the other team. Some guys on our staff may be able to do that, try to get a jump ahead and I didn’t discourage that. I just wanted to make sure that we all understand that there is no game
more important than this week’s game.
Q: How much of an eye are you keeping on Patrick Peterson?
A: He’s a good player. Good corner, good cover ability and they’re playing him in some man situations, he’s good in zone coverage. But then as a punt returner, he’s in a whole class by himself. He’s incredible, four touchdowns over 80 yards a year ago, set an NFL record. He’s a special guy when it comes to punt returns. We talked about him in our meeting and what we have to do to try to keep him corralled. He can definitively change the game as a punt returner and even as a defensive back, outstanding player.
Q: A.J. Jefferson was with Arizona every day; how much has that helped to understand what they do offensively or defensively?
A: We’re tapping. Our offensive staff met with him on Monday, our special teams coach met with him, so yes, we are definitely talking with him about their personnel and some of the things he can provide information-wise.
Q: What’s your level of concern about Brian Robison, after the elbow injury it seems like he hasn’t played the same?
A: Not a whole lot of concern. He’s still playing at a high level, maybe not have gotten the numbers from a sack standpoint but he’s getting good pressure on the quarterback. He hasn’t really complained about not being able to do his job and you don’t see it on tape. No real concerns.
Q: What do you see out of John Skelton?
A: He was a starter coming out of camp, he had won that job. Then that injury in Seattle set him back a little bit with his ankle, but you can see why he was a starter. He has a very good arm, six-foot-five, can look over your d-line and is able to make the throws that he has to make, whether it’s inside-breaking routes or outside routes, he can throw the ball down the field. He has a very strong arm and he seems to be a smart guy as well. He can present some problems. Gets the ball out fast and he’s a little bit better athlete than you would think, he moves around well in the pocket. He’s a different type quarterback than Kevin was and we’ll have to really be on our P’s and Q’s in trying to defend him.
Q: Washington was able to find a lot in the middle of the field, was a lot of that because of RGIII and was that not as big of a concern as far as linebackers go?
A: As a product of what they did on offense, but I’m sure we talked about it as a staff, other teams are going to look at that and go hey, ‘This is way to maybe neutralize the Vikings pass rush, play action pass.’ We’re well aware, but some of what they did was a byproduct of the style offense that they ran. I’ll leave it at that.
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
Moving on to a new week. Obviously, last week was disappointing. I could have done some things better. The Arizona Cardinals, the first win that I was a part of last year, have a really good defense. This is going to be a really tough challenge for us. Another 3-4 like we faced last week. They do some different things schematically, very good players. They know how to get to the quarterback, so we’re going to have to do a good job protecting. We’re going to have to run the ball really well. It’s going to be a fun one. It’s going to be important for us. We’re back home to keep our home winning streak going and we’re excited to be back home. We’re going to have to have a great week of preparation this week. It’s a tough defense, one of the better defenses in the League and I think that’s a big part of why they are 4-2 right now.
Q: How is their 3-4 different from ones you’ve faced earlier?
A: Last week’s 3-4 was a standard 3-4. This week they’ll go 3-4 and they’ll mix an under 3-4 to get some different looks. A lot of times 3-4s are different in the fact that how they run different pressures and what coverages they play from them. They do some different pressures, a lot of different pressures and they do some different things in the coverage scheme, as well.
Q: As good as Percy Harvin is underneath, are you tempted to get him downfield?
A: We’re finding ways to try to get him the ball. Obviously, the stuff underneath is working really well. We caught a go ball a couple weeks ago and we had a deep ball against Washington caught down the middle. We’re going to find ways to get him downfield, keep getting him stuff underneath, but we’re going to keep giving him the ball no matter what.
Q: Have you been able to pinpoint anything over the past couple weeks that has led to your turnovers?
A: Washington, the last one was dumb. I was trying to make a play at the end of the game. The one before that, my feet weren’t right. [Michael] Jenkins is wide open five yards in front of me and the ball just sailed on me. In the other game, it was very similar, two poor throws. It’s not really decision making. I’m not making bad decisions. It’s something that is easily correctable. I think a lot of it has to do with my footwork and it’s something I’ll work on this week.
Q: It looked like you knew that one to Michael Jenkins was bad right away.
A: Yeah, it wasn’t good. Right when it left my hand, it sailed on me and the guy was sitting right there and intercepted it. That wasn’t good.
Q: As you look at the tape, do you see anything that led to the accuracy issues last week?
A: The biggest thing was footwork. The one that I threw short to Kyle [Rudolph], I flipped my feet around. I should have stayed on the run and threw off balance. I had one, a missed throw, to John Carlson on a little corner route that I didn’t really set my feet. It’s all footwork.
Q: Is that a matter of being more comfortable in the pocket?
A: It’s not really comfort in the pocket, it’s being better at moving around in the pocket. Like the one to Jenkins, I was hitching up because I was looking left and then he was on the right and I just never got my foot all the way to the right and that’s what caused the ball to sail on me. It’s just me doing a better job of moving around in the pocket, not really being more comfortable.
Q: Do you get a sense of Jerome Simpson’s frustration not being able to get on the field?
A: I think he’s definitely disappointed he’s not out there. I don’t know if he’s frustrated. I think he understands that he’s kind of got a weird injury. I think he’ll be back this week and he’s going to practice all week and we’ll see if he’s set for the game, but we’ll be happy when he’s back. I know he’ll be happy when he’s back.
Q: You have 16 starts now, a full year’s worth of starts, what do you see as the biggest differences between now and then?
A: I think my whole comfort level, my whole confidence level. It’s just different. I really feel like this is my team and I’m a part of this team. A year makes a big difference for sure.
Q: What is John Carlson’s reaction to his role in the offense? Has he been frustrated?
A: No, he’s a team player. He’s a really good teammate. Anyone in his position would want more balls, but he’s never shown that. He’s never shown any frustration. He caught one ball last week and I missed him on a throw. He’s getting open, I just have to keep doing a better job of getting him the ball and not miss throws.
Q: What did you see from the first three red zone trips?
A: The first one, I tried to force a ball into Devin [Aromashodu] and probably threw it too early. Second drive, I could have checked the ball down to Adrian [Peterson] to get a first down and we didn’t do that. It all goes back to execution. We’re not going to change our red zone scheme. We just have to do what we’re doing better and get better at it. We’re not going to put extra focus on it, obviously we need to improve and we need to focus on that, but we’re not going to try anything crazy different.
Q: Did they show you any looks you weren’t expecting?
A: We tried to put Percy in the backfield to try to get them to suck up on the run and the safety didn’t really do anything. That’s not what we expected them to do. I don’t know if they knew our play call or what. They didn’t cooperate like we wanted them to.
Q: On the next play, is that supposed to be a corner route to Kyle Rudolph and you end up checking it down the Toby Gerhart?
A: Yeah, we were trying to work Percy on a little one-on-one route and it took too long to develop, so I just escaped out and tried to make a play to Toby. He caught it, but it obviously didn’t help that much.
Q: At this point, does your confidence fluctuate from week-to-week based on your performance?
A: No, I think I got through that last year. Week-to-week last year it probably fluctuated, but that’s out of my system. Now that it’s my second year I’m completely confident in what I’m doing. Obviously, I’m disappointed when I make throws like that, but it’s easy for me to move on and I think it’s important for me to move on. Obviously, after the game I’m frustrated in what I did, but I have to play the play and not let it affect me because it will affect the rest of my teammates.
Q: The fact that you moved the ball so well late, is that encouraging?
A: I guess. Obviously, we’re good in the passing game, we just have to do a better job of being better early on and not waiting for things to click until the fourth quarter. Again, it all goes back to execution for us on our part and I have to keep doing a better job of not only starting fast, like we did last week, but obviously finishing in the red zone, but continuing that in the second and third quarters as well.
Q: Do you embrace basically having the offense on your shoulders at that point?
A: Yeah, I enjoy it. When the game is on the line, I want the ball in my hands. I want to make plays. That’s why football is fun. A game like Tennessee where we won big, obviously we’re happy about that, but what’s ultimately fun is a close game in the fourth quarter and you have to go win a game.
Q: Talking about footwork, does that also mean stepping up in the pocket more consistently?
A: Yeah, definitely. I think when I get myself in trouble is when I get to the top of my drop and kind of hop there and sit back there rather than moving forward. I definitely make a lot of my better throws when I move forward and that’s something I have to keep continuing getting better at and make that a habit, rather than hopping at the top of the pocket. That’s what I did in college and got away with it, obviously the ends are rushing off the edge a lot more and they’re a lot better so I have to keep doing a good job of moving forward.
Q: It looked like you were making that an emphasis in the second half of the Washington game.
Q: After the Indianapolis loss, you guys responded really well. Do you expect that again?
A: Yeah, we expect to refocus and move on from last week and do a better job of preparing. We know that it’s going to be a tough week and we have to a really good job of preparing. We definitely want to refocus and move on and do everything that we can, especially with the defense that we’re facing, which is so different schematically; we have to do a lot better job of focusing on practice this week.