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Hearing from the Vikings

Posted Sep 25, 2013

Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier and running back Adrian Peterson talk about Sunday's game against the Steelers.

Head Coach Leslie Frazier

How was the trip over, and why did you decide to go over earlier?
The trip was fine. We got some rest on the plane. Then we went out and did an activity here for kids, a Play 60 activity as a team with the kids. As far as the decision to come over early, it’s a league mandate. We are the home team, so we are here early because of that, as opposed to being the visiting team. So far, so good; we have beautiful weather here, and we had a good practice this afternoon.|

Does Christian Ponder’s status possibly have you make moves at the position?
No, we have three quarterbacks on our roster. If something were to happen where he couldn’t go, we’d designate our third quarterback as our number-two. We will see how he progresses tomorrow.

Are takeaways streaky? Do they come in bunches? Is there anything you can do to maybe teach that?
You talk about it in meetings and at practice. You do drills, and try to emphasize it as much as you can as coaches. It does happen in bunches. You can have streaks where you aren’t getting them, then all of a sudden you get them in bunches. It happens that way. You have to keep emphasizing it. It definitely makes a difference in wins and losses. It definitely has shown on our stats sheet for sure.

How special is Adrian Peterson and how special is it for you to have someone like him on the team?
He’s a special talent, without question. For all of us to get a chance to see him every day, he’s a joy to watch. The way he practices, the way he handles himself in meetings, he’s a tremendous teammate and a superstar in every way. He’s obviously important to us. He’s the MVP of the league. He’s a joy to be around, a great player.

How do you turn things around and stop the panic from setting in being 0-3?
I think you have to identify what the problems are and try to come up with the solutions to those problems. Our games have gone right down to the last play so often or right to the end of the fourth quarter. We have to make some plays at the end of ball games. Part of our problem is the turnovers and not being able to close out games. We’ve been very inconsistent on special teams. You combine that, and you end up with a record where we are. We have to fix some of that. If we do, we have a chance to get things turned around.

Re: Le’Veon Bell playing this week and Antonio Brown:
He [Brown] played extremely well on Sunday night. He is a big-play guy that is capable of making big plays, not only as a receiver but as a punt returner as well. You have to pay attention him. If they get their run game on track, their offense will really improve. But it seems like they really came on in that Bears’ game. The turnovers kind of set them back a little bit.

Re: Ben Roethlisberger playing behind an inconsistent offensive line:
Ben is the perfect guy when your offensive line is trying to come together. They lost a key player, Maurkice Pouncey, at center. You need a veteran quarterback like Ben, who is able to make plays on the move and keep plays alive. He’s been good at that his entire career. They are going to find a way, even though they lost a key player, to make it work, primarily because of their quarterback.

How do you draw a line when the team is struggling where you rely on your stars or bigger players as opposed to preventing them from thinking they have to do too much?
That’s a good question. We talked to some of our key guys about that. We have seen some of them pressed in certain situations in the first three games. We have to understand that we have to trust our teammates to do their jobs. We only need each player to do his job. If you are Peterson or Jared Allen, [and they think] I’ve got to take the whole team on my back; that creates other problems for our football team. You try to get that message across. Hopefully guys buy into it and just concentrate on doing the very best they can at their role.


Running Back Adrian Peterson

How tough is it to stay with the running game as opposed to relying on the passing game?
It’s tough any time you’re not balanced as an offense. Taking that stronghold, just running the ball. When we’re not being efficient in the passing game we’ve got to run it. Me, being the runner, I definitely prefer a more balanced offense because it opens things up for the run and vice-versa for the pass.

Has not having a more effective passing game added more stress on the running game?
Yeah. Any time the offense is not able to be efficient and consistent in the pass game, especially a running team, it makes it harder because a defense can make you one dimensional, and they can focus on stopping the run. That’s why we try to focus on being more balanced and getting our receivers and the quarterback on the same page so we’re able to be more efficient as an offense, running and passing the ball.

You see a lot of good four-man fronts in your division. How different are the Steelers up front and what do you see from them?
They look pretty good up front. They’ve got some new faces on their defense in their front seven. But they’re good. They’re pretty stout up front. They play a 3-4 defense and they’ve got some good veteran linebackers in that system. They have a good defense. We’ve got a nice challenge in front of us and this is an opportunity for us to get back on track and get a win before the bye. It would kind of give us something to build off of once we come back for the bye. We just want to go out there and handle our business and execute.

When you guys are struggling and haven’t won a game like the Steelers, where do you draw the line between the stars on the team putting the ball in their hands and having them ‘win the game for you,’ as opposed to making sure the stars aren’t trying to do too much and being disruptive?
I feel like if we just compete and do what we’ve been doing – a lot of guys have actually been stepping up and making plays. We’re beating ourselves by not protecting the ball, for one, and offensively, not being able to execute in the red zone. When I look at it, it’s not more so about handing the ball off to me every time or finding those key players, it’s more about executing when the opportunity is presented to us. Last week, we had an opportunity on the four-yard line with three minutes left to score a touchdown and really close the game out. We didn’t do it. The weekend before that, same opportunity in Chicago on the 15, 16-yard line. Didn’t do it. Twice. That’s two games right there that are turned around if we handle our business as far as executing and being more efficient in the red zone. We don’t have to focus on handing the ball off to me or trying to get the ball to whoever is hot that day. It’s all about executing.

Tennessee and Cincinnati both ran the ball well against the Steelers in the fourth quarter. How important is it for you guys to stick with the run game and be able to run it in the fourth quarter?
Definitely. Your best defense is your offense. Keeping those guys off the field is what we want to do. We want to come out, get the run game going, get the pass game going and be a balanced offense. But, definitely, you want possession to go towards our end.

Last season you got off to a relatively slow start but got rolling in the second half of the season. Is there no panic on your part and do you feel that eventually the run game will get going and you’ll get that rhythm you did last year?
No panic at all. I forgot who walked up to me yesterday, I think it was a reporter who came up to me and was like, “You’re like 57 yards ahead of where you were last year around game three.” I was like, “No, I didn’t know that, but thanks for the good information.” It’ll pick up. We have played some good defenses in the past three weeks. There have been some missed opportunities out there that I was able to look at and just shake my head because [they could have been] homeruns. You factor those in and we aren’t talking about where I’m at personally with yardage. I feel like things are starting to open up for us.

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