Notebook: Despite struggles, Leslie Frazier tries to keep things positive
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings have lost their past two games and three of their past four. They were the only team from the NFC North to lose on Sunday, their passing offense is a mess and coach Leslie Frazier admits the run defense needs to "go back to the drawing board."
Nonetheless, the Vikings are sitting at 5-4, thanks to a 4-1 start to the season.
That means that even though players might have been down following a 30-20 loss Sunday at Seattle, the Vikings are far from finished.
"I'll talk with them this afternoon and just remind them of where we are in the season," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Monday. "There's nothing declared at this point of the season. There's a lot of football to be played. There are teams that will go through bumps in the road along the way. Some have already experienced some of that and been able to bounce back.
"We hit a little bit of adversity here, but it's nothing we can't overcome. We've just got to do a good job of internally looking at ourselves, both as a coaching staff and as players, and get things figured out. We are really still in control of our own destiny.
"We have an opportunity playing at home this weekend where we can right the ship if we approach this week the right way in practice and our preparation. So, the sky's not falling. There's some things we have to get fixed, for sure, to get things going back in the right direction. We were playing tough, smart, aggressive football early on. We got to get back to that, playing physical ball and playing smart. But there's time."
Frazier knows the clock is ticking.
The Bears (7-1), Packers (6-3) and Lions (4-4) all won easily Sunday and the Vikings will face Detroit this coming Sunday before entering a much-needed bye week. That will be followed by back-to-back games at Chicago and Green Bay.
Linebacker Chad Greenway remained positive Monday when asked about the recent struggles of a team that went 3-13 last season and appears as if it might be on the verge of collapse.
"The reality is (that) 9-7 won the Super Bowl last year," Greenway said. "You have to be playing well at the right time. We're not playing well right now, we played well before, and we can get back to that. And we have time to do it. So the idea that the season is over and we're scrapping? We're 5-4.
"We're probably in the middle of the road in the NFC, maybe a little above. I'm not sure where we are. But the reality is we have a chance. We have what, five divisional opponents left? No way are you going to get me to buy into that. But, I die hard too."
About that run defense
The Vikings run defense is 18th in the NFL after giving up 195 yards against Seattle on Sunday.
Running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 124 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown, making it the fourth consecutive game in which the Vikings have had an opposing player rush for more than 100 yards.
"Our run defense doesn't resemble the type of run defense we're capable of playing," Frazier said. "We have to go back to the drawing board and come up with some ways to defend the run better than what we're doing. We've got to look at some things and try to get things corrected and really almost start from square one when it comes to our rush defense. "
Opponents started to get big yards against the Vikings on the ground in Week 6 when Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III ran for 138 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns, including one that went 76 yards.
Arizona running back LaRod Stephens-Howling rushed for 104 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown in a Cardinals loss. Four days later, Tampa Bay's Doug Martin ran for 135 yards on 29 carries and a score.
Despite the fact the Vikings have struggled with tackling and having defenders in the right gaps, Greenway isn't sure the team needs to go back to the drawing board more than halfway through the regular season.
"Obviously, what coach says is the golden word," Greenway said. "But I think from our standpoint in the defensive room, it's more about going out there and just doing our job a little bit better. I mean, you look at the film, and it's sort of the classic tale. You're just a little bit off. And (opponents are) seeming to find the holes, what we're leaving open. So it's just, from our standpoint, frustrating.
"Obviously, we haven't been playing well and we've lost a couple in a row, things are going to seem worse than they are. But the reality is we are 5-4 with every opportunity to win every game on the way out. So there's nothing to say we don't right the ship. Obviously, that's the mentality we have to have. You can't be doom and gloom with seven games left and a bye week in there to rest up. So, you know, I don't buy into that."
Ponder's knee not an issue
Quarterback Christian Ponder got up limping late in the third quarter of Sunday's game after throwing an incomplete pass for tight end Kyle Rudolph. It appeared Ponder had aggravated a right knee injury that has bothered him since the Vikings' 20-13 victory at Detroit in Week 4.
"He hasn't complained about his knee," Frazier said when asked if the injury might be part of the reason for Ponder's struggles. "I don't think it's an issue. Our doctors haven't told me that it is a problem for him and he hasn't complained about it."
Frazier did say there was a point when Ponder got up slowly and backup Joe Webb was told to get ready. "(Ponder) got through it and went back out there and continued to play," Frazier said.
Ponder, who said the issue is with his bursa sac, continues to wear a protective sleeve on the knee.
Rudolph caught 25 passes in the Vikings' first six games this season, but has only two receptions in the past three games. Both of those came in the Vikings' loss to Tampa Bay on Oct. 25.
Rudolph was the target of two passes on Sunday but both were incomplete.
So what has happened to a guy who was expected to have a breakout season?
"We had some things called (Sunday) that we thought would get the ball to him and they didn't materialize," Frazier said. "The good thing about Kyle's game (Sunday), he did a great job in blocking which really helped set up some of those nice runs that Adrian (Peterson) had.
"We do want him included in our pass game, we had some things set up for him. It didn't happen. Partially because of coverage, partially sometimes because of the rush and sometimes we just didn't find him. We want him involved. We have to figure out a way to get him involved."