MONDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2013
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
It was a pleasure to go back and look at that tape from yesterday’s ballgame and to see so many guys step up in the absence of some of our starters. Tremendous team win for our football team. Credit to our players, our coaches, just doing a great job of preparing for a very good football team and coming away with a win at our home field, at Mall of America Field. So a terrific effort by our guys. So many individuals that stepped up on offense and defense. Can’t say enough Matt Asiata stepping in in the shoes of a Toby [Gerhart] and Adrian [Peterson] and doing the things that he accomplished and then taking a look at what Matt Cassel was able to get done. Chase Ford stepping up. Number of guys just doing a great job – Shaun Prater stepping up and starting. It kind of speaks to some of the things that our coaches have done throughout the year in developing our players. I was asked a number of times this morning and even yesterday about how do those guys go out and perform like that when they haven’t had very many snaps in an NFL game other than maybe special teams and part of it goes back to the work that we do post-practice each day with our players. Our coaches staying out afterwards working with our young guys who aren’t necessarily starters but we tell them all the time things can change in a hurry in the National Football League to where you could go from not dressing to all of a sudden having to have to be a starter in a ballgame. So we’ll keep them after practices and the coaches will work with them and that’s one of the ways guys are able to step in and perform the way they performed yesterday. So great job by our players, great job by our coaches as well. We came out pretty good health wise. I don’t think we lost anybody for health reasons. The only guy that missed a little bit of time in the game was Cullen Loeffler. I don’t know if you remember but Jared [Allen] stepped in and long snapped for us and did a very good job in the one occasion where he had to step in but Cullen should be fine going forward. He came back and finished the ballgame, so that was good news on that front health wise.
Q: What do you think of the impact Harrison Smith had coming back from his injury and how that helped you to keep their passing attack under wraps for a while?
A: Yeah, I thought Harrison’s presence made a big difference. He’s such a common influence on our entire defense and our secondary in particular. Some of the things he does that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet – just his moving around, being in position and discouraging quarterbacks by just his movement some times where he’s bluffing like he might be coming on a blitz or showing where he might be in the box to discourage a run and all of a sudden he’s back in the half-field position. His presence helps us all, so it was great to have him back.
Q: Did you play him more than you anticipated?
A: Yeah, a lot of more than we anticipated. We’d ask him after each series – especially the type of offense they were running – how do you feel, what do you think and he wanted to go back out there and he did good. He did a great job.
Q: Are any of the players that sat out yesterday in jeopardy of not playing at Cincinnati?
A: I think most guys will be back. I don’t know if anybody off the top of my head is in jeopardy. I think we should get most guys back for practice on Wednesday. Xavier, we may have to wait and see on him. He’s the one that may not be sure about today.
Q: What happened with Josh Robinson’s injury that caused him to move to Injured Reserve?
A: Just hasn’t recovered fast enough. We’re running out of time so we needed to get some other guys up and he’s one of those guys that we didn’t think was going to make it back where initial we were hoping that he would but wasn’t going to work out.
Q: What happened in practice that caused Chris Cook’s knee injury?
A: He just was planting on a route and getting ready to drive on a route and felt his knee tweak and ended up going and getting an MRI and had a bone bruise and struggled to get through that. We worked him out before the ballgame, just struggled with the pain so we had to get Shaun up and get him ready to go.
Q: What have you seen from Matt Cassel that has allowed him to be so successful?
A: He does a great job of studying for one and understanding what the looks are that you’re going to get and having an idea of what coverages you’re going to get as well. He knows where to go with the football in pre-snap and he gets it out of hands because of it. They ran a zero pressure yesterday that was a great example of it where they’re going to have a free guy, he sees it in pre-snap, he knows exactly where his hot [route] is and where he has to get the football to and just like that he negates the zero pressure free blitzer because he gets the ball out so fast and he doesn’t hesitate. He knows exactly where it has to go and that’s his veteran experience and the confidence he has that he can make those plays.
Q: How much does that preparation allow him to stay in the pocket and not get rattled?
A: That’s part of it – the preparation part – but I also think the experience factor. If you were to ask him when he was a 2nd or 3rd-year quarterback how he would have handled those situations it might be a little different but he’s been in those situations a number of times and he knows if he can just buy another second when you’ve got a guy like a Greg Jennings or a Cordarrelle Patterson those guys are going to get open if they’re playing single-high safety and he has enough poise to maintain his composure and makes some plays.
Q: Does that change at all how you can gameplan? The offense looked to be a little more open yesterday.
A: To some degree but a lot of it goes with what Adrian’s absence meant to us and also the type of defense we were playing. They were an attacking, freestyling defense that allowed you some things if you could take advantage of it in the secondary and we saw that and our guys were able to take advantage of it. But his communication with the coaches definitely helps in between series, what he thinks is available. His knowledge of the passing offense definitely helps as he’s giving input about some things he’s seeing on the field.
Q: Did Shaun Prater play well enough to maybe start ahead of Chris Cook?
A: I don’t know about that for sure but he played well. He did a good job. We’re going to sit back and evaluate his performance and see where Chris is physically as well. We think he’s going to be fine going forward but we’ll get on the field and find out on Wednesday.
Q: Was Chris Cook not playing due to pain tolerance or risk of structural damage?
A: There was no structural issues that I was told, more of dealing with the things you have to do as a defensive back – plant, turn without thinking. You can’t be worried about the pain. The fact that he was having trouble planting and driving, getting out of his back pedal, that’s a problem as a defensive back.
Q: How frustrating has it been with all of the injuries throughout his career and how he’s left you hanging quite a few times?
A: Well, a big part of what we do is availability. You can have talent but if you’re not available then it kind of negates what you’re trying to get done as a player and it really makes it tough for your teammates as well. I know he’s trying to get out there, he’s trying to do the best he can to help our team and unfortunately he wasn’t able to help us in this last ballgame. Fortunately for us we had guys that stepped up and played well for us.
Q: You guys are closing the season playing 3 potential division leaders (Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Detroit). How is it that when a team is out of playoff contention and gets to wreck the playoff hopes of other teams? Is that an added incentive?
A: It isn’t an incentive from my perspective. I’m not even paying attention to where those teams are. We’re taking it one game at a time and you’re approaching that opponent for who they are whether they were in the playoffs, out of the playoffs, I don’t think it would change our approach. I don’t think it changed our approach yesterday with the guys that had to play.
Q: Do you notice that players might like to play the role of spoiler?
A: Well we don’t use that word spoiler in our conversation. We’re trying our very best to work as hard as we can to get a win for our team and it’s nothing to do with the impact it would have on any other team, just trying to get a win for our team.
Q: Jerome Simpson said something yesterday one of the officials said something to your players that he thought was uncalled for. Is that something you feel that you need to look into?
A: I’ve spoken to Jerome on that and I think we’re pretty clear on what was going on and I think he’s done a good job of moving on from that. I feel better about it after having a chance to talk with him about it.
Q: Do you know what happened there?
A: There was a situation where there was a taunting called against him and so some of it traced back to that and I think we’ve got that cleared up. Hopefully we won’t experience that in the next couple of ballgames.
Q: Did you get a feel for what the official was saying to him and even some of his teammates?
A: Yeah, after hearing the conversation it’s much more than it needed to be. I don’t think it’ll come to a whole lot. We’ll see.
Q: You talk about Cassel’s success and you talk about preparation and experience but is there something about his personality because some guys that are in that situation can’t handle it with such humility and with such patience? He says he never looks backwards or forwards, he just takes each game. Is there something special about him as a person that has happened with his success?
A: I do think he has some strong leadership qualities and some of your better leaders at that position are guys that are able to just focus on the now and not get caught up in the what-ifs and what could have been. He’s one of those guys that can really concentrate on the moment and that’s not easy to do. There are so many things that can enter into your play as quarterback that can create negative thoughts and he’s done a good job of just moving on from some of those moments. Part of it has to do with his experience and part of it is he’s a good leader. He understands the importance of staying focused on the task and having confidence because as a leader those people around you, they’re going to feed off of that confidence and he plays like that.
Q: Is there something about Matt Cassel’s personality that has helped him to this recent success?
A: I do think he has some strong leadership qualities. Some of your better leaders at that position are guys that are able to just focus on the now and not get caught up in the what-ifs and what could have been and he’s one of those guys who can really concentrate on the moment and that’s not easy to do. There are so many things that can enter in to your play as a quarterback that can create negative thoughts. He’s done a good job of just moving on from some of those moments and part of it has to do with his experience in this league and part of it is he’s a good leader. He understand the importance of staying focused on the task and having confidence because, as a leader, those people around you, they’re going to feed off of that confidence and he plays off of that.
Q: Yesterday more points were scored than any other week in NFL history. Do you coach any differently knowing that points are going up and up?
A: We did think about that week as we approached the Eagles. They are an explosive offense and we did talk about we’re going to need to score a lot of points. But it just seems as you look at the numbers around the league, scoring is up. It was up a season ago and it’s going to be up again this year. That’s the trend in our league. It’s becoming tougher and tougher to hold teams to 10 points or 13 points in a ball game. I just think that you have to be aware that you’re going to need to score some points on offense because the league has trended to more of an offensive league, so you have to find ways to take advantage of that and score.
Q: Are there examples of risks that you take now that you wouldn’t have five years ago?
A: I think you see a lot more teams going for it on fourth down situations where as in the past they might not have just because of this trend. People are throwing the ball on third and one a lot more, third and two a lot more than they would have in years past because of how liberal the rules are when it comes to defensive pass interference and some of the other things that have occur and the jamming of receivers. Passing is up, scoring is up and I don’t see that changing for a while.
Q: Have the rules gone too far to where it’s too open?
A: The game is so popular and that’s what kind of drives the engine. It’s working in that way and I don’t know if it will change. The popularity of our league really drives what happens for all of us that are involved so I’m not sure it will change anytime soon.
Q: You guys haven’t won an actually road game this year. Do you emphasize that this week?
A: You’re right about that. We are going to emphasize it. We want to win this final road game. It’s important. It’s our next game on our schedule and we are going to emphasize it for sure
Q: Do you have an update on John Carlson?
A: He is doing some work today, this afternoon actually. We’ll know more after these tests that he’s taking today.
Q: The Eagles said you played more man than what they expected. Was that a product of who was available in the defensive backfield or are you trying to incorporate that more into the broader scheme of what you’re doing defensively?
A: Well, it was more strategic. We looked at what they were doing on tape and we felt like if we had any chance of slowing down that offense this is what we needed to do. After watching how they had exposed a number of teams that did some other things a little bit different we said this is what we have to do and we tried to prepare our players to execute and, boy, they did a real good job for the most part throughout the day.
Q: What does it mean to you as a coach seeing the team go out every week and battle even though the season hasn’t gone your way?
A: I’ll tell you, when I talked with them after the game when we were in the locker room I told them how proud I am of the way they have continued to compete. They come out here and practice hard every time we get on the field. They don’t get caught up in the what-ifs and what could have been. They work as hard as they can to focus on that opponent. We talked about it on Saturday night. We had a couple of our players stand up, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, Matt Cassel, Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, just talked about why we’re going to work as hard as we can on this Sunday, and this was on Saturday night, to win this game and why that game was important to the people in that room. It was a very emotional time and then to see them come out and play the way they did with the odds so stacked against them, it makes you very, very proud of every one of those guys in the locker room. No matter what happens at the end of this season or in the future, they have my respect.
Q: What kind of message were those veteran guys giving Saturday night?
A: Each one put their own twist on it, but in general, just how important it is to go out and do the very best that you can every single game because there is no guarantee that there is a game after this. This career can be over so quick and most of the guys in that room know that because one play can lead to the end of a career. So to hear a John Sullivan or a Jared or a Kevin Williams talk about why this game is important to them in Week 14 or 15 when you’re out of the playoffs, that had to mean something to our young guys as well, to hear them talk about the importance of the game late in the season when you’re not a playoff team, competing for a playoff spot. They stressed that part of it. If nothing else, you do it for your family and your friends who are watching this game and pulling for you, so it was encouraging.
Q: What specifically did Shaun Prater do that allowed him to be successful?
A: He just played hard and played smart. Even that interception that he had they’re running kind of a deceptive play, sending a guy to the post, he’s a deep-third defender and he doesn’t follow the guy to the post, he knows that Harrison (Smith) is there and I don’t have to chase this receiver. And there is DeSean Jackson coming up the sideline coming up the sideline behind him and rather than following a guy he doesn’t have to cover, he’s smart enough and aware enough to fall off and make a great play. Usually that’s a guy who has been playing a while and has been in that situation a number of times that makes that play, but his awareness and his acute alertness to what needed to happen was impressive to see. He made some other plays too that just shows you that he’ a very aware guy and a very smart football player.
Q: At what point did Matt Cassel enter back into the picture as a guy you would look to as the starter?
A: Looking at the guys who had been playing, primarily Christian, just seeing some of the ups and downs of his play and then when the injury occurred, I think it was Chicago he had the injury, Matt got back in and played very well for us down the stretch. Made some big time plays in that fourth quarter and overtime as well. He’s done that coming in a relief role and so now you say, ‘Okay, we need to see him in a lead role on a consistent basis and see how he does in that role as well,’ but he’s shown in relief he can be very, very good. He’s been a starter before, I think Chris (Tomasson) asked me last week why hadn’t it worked out in the past for him, but he’s showed and he’s shown us that he can be in that starter role, he can have success. It helps to have some guys around you like Cordarrelle (Patterson), Adrian and eventually Mr. (Kyle) Rudolph as well. He did a good job yesterday and he’s done a good job for us here in Minnesota.
Q: What have you seen from the pass protection that Cassel received?
A: I thought our protection overall was pretty good. We had some moments at times where it wasn’t ideal, but overall I thought we did a really good job. The offensive line handled some of the stuff that they gave us. They are a multiple front team. They give you a lot of different looks, a lot of movement and for the most part, I thought we handled it well.
Q: Were there parts in the middle of the season where you wanted to see something in particular from Christian Ponder?
A: Every time you put him out there you want to see him keep growing and keep getting better and that was a big part of why he was in that starting role. You want to see him just keep growing and do some of the things he did for us in the month of December a year ago. He helped us tremendously to get into the playoffs a year ago, so you want to build on that and watch him just continue to grow. He did some good things, but consistency and what you’re always looking for.