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Updated: September 19th, 2011 5:18pm
Notebook: Leslie Frazier says Vikings must 'mature as a football team'

Notebook: Leslie Frazier says Vikings must 'mature as a football team'

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - After blowing a 17-0 halftime lead in their home opener on Sunday and losing 24-20 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings players admitted they hadn't completed what they started.

Coach Leslie Frazier, asked about this on Monday, said he wasn't upset by the admission of many that they hadn't played all 60 minutes.

"They're being honest with you," Frazier said. "They're seeing the same thing that you saw. We did not play a full 60. (They are) being completely honest. We have got to get to the point where we can and we do. You guys see it. We have a chance to be a good football team. We're just not there yet."

The key question is how quickly can the Vikings get there?

They have started 0-2 for the second consecutive season, blowing a 17-7 halftime lead at San Diego on Sept. 11 before being outscored 24-3 in the second half on Sunday at the Metrodome. Only 12.5 percent of the NFL teams that started 0-2 since 1990 advanced to the playoffs.

"It's not so much strategy," Frazier said of what has gone wrong after the half. "I've been on both sides of it where we've been down at the half in my career, and we've been able to come back on teams. Been in situations we're in right now where we struggle coming out of the half. We've just got to mature as a football team.

"We're going through some things that some teams go through and we'll get through it. We've just got to continue to play and continue to play as well as we are in the first half and we'll get that second half completed. Get a sense of urgency about getting that done."

Frazier attempted to put the focus on how well the Vikings have performed in the opening 30 minutes over their first two games, but what he must figure out is how to get a complete effort.

On Sunday, the Vikings dominated the Buccaneers in the first two quarters, accumulating 284 total yards, 17 first downs and 137 yards rushing. Tampa Bay had 62 yards, three first downs and 23 yards rushing.

But that momentum disappeared in the second half, beginning with the Buccaneers' opening possession when running back LeGarrette Blount completed a two-play drive with a 27-yard touchdown run.

"It feels a little better watching the film knowing that they really didn't just stop us, we stopped ourselves," Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said.

Shiancoe said Frazier told his team to stay positive and "man up," and added that quarterback Donovan McNabb also talked to the team.

There was talk that the Bucs had made adjustments in the locker room that the Vikings failed to then counter but Frazier downplayed that notion.

"We felt we had a good plan coming out (for) the second half," Frazier said. "If you listen to, and talk with anybody from the Buccaneers, I don't think they'll tell you they did a whole lot of things different than they did the first half.

"We didn't do as good a job executing in some key situations and that's what you've got to be able to do. We've got to do a better job of playing situational football. Right now, we don't have a good grasp of that and that's something I'm going to talk with our team about this afternoon.

"We've got a lead, but sometimes you can't tell that we have a lead. So, we've got to get that swagger that you have to have when you have a lead."

Where's Percy?

The fact Harvin hasn't been used on every kickoff return has upset some, but it was even more surprising that he was on the field for only 30 of 68 offensive snaps on Sunday.

By comparison wide receivers Michael Jenkins and Bernard Berrian played 52 and 51 snaps, respectively.

Harvin, a dynamic playmaker, still had a team-leading seven receptions for 76 yards and was targeted eight times by McNabb.

"That's coach decision," Harvin said. "We have different packages. We have certain situations where I may not be in certain packages because it might call for something else. ... (It) is strictly because we have different packages."

Said Frazier: "There are certain packages he's going to be a part of. We try to judiciously use his services. He's such a major factor for what we do on offense. Sometimes just his presence on the field, even though he might not be getting the football, is a plus for our offense. But we have to be smart with how we use him for different reasons. I think what we're doing right now is the right way to approach it."

Costly miscues

The Vikings made plenty of mistakes Sunday that were easily recognized, but there also were a couple of subtle miscues.

Harvin said that on two occasions the Vikings lined up in the wrong formation and although he refused to go into any detail it was pretty evident both came in the red zone.

The Vikings were 2-for-4 in the red zone, with one drive stalling at the Buccaneers' 4-yard line in the second quarter and another at the Bucs' 11 in the fourth quarter.

"We're in the right formation, we probably had two walk-in touchdowns," Harvin said.

Asked about the specifics of what happened, Harvin said: "I'm not getting into all that. We didn't execute enough to get the job done. I'm not getting into the formations and who did what. As a team, we didn't execute offense, defense or special teams."

Timeouts revisited

Frazier caused quite a bit of second-guessing when he did not use a timeout as the Buccaneers marched to the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs took over with 4:12 left at their own 39-yard line. Eventually, they had a first down at the Vikings' 16 with 1:56 left and ran plays on second and third down that kept the clock moving.

They took a 24-20 lead on a 4-yard run by Blount with 31 seconds left. The Vikings got the ball back with 24 seconds left and ran three plays before time expired.

Frazier, who defended the decision in his postgame press conference, still did not question himself Monday.

"There are so many (things) in that game I look back at," Frazier said. "You think about, 'What if we had done this, what if we had done that.' I'm sure just about every team in the league that lost yesterday in the fourth quarter would say the same thing.

"There are always some things you feel like you can do a little bit differently that might help the team. I knew exactly what we were trying to do in that situation from a defensive standpoint, even a team standpoint. There are always things over the course of a game you look back at when you lose and you say, maybe you might want to do this and maybe you want to do that a little differently.

"It's debatable about what's the best approach you might want to take in that situation. You'd like to be able to give your offense another chance, but you'd like to be able to come up with a play to end the game as well or block a field goal, whatever it may be."

Time to make a play

Safety Tyrell Johnson had an opportunity to pick off a Josh Freeman pass with the Bucs at the Vikings' 16 and just over 1:50 left in Sunday's game. However, Johnson had the ball bounce off his hands as he made an attempt to catch it.

Despite Johnson's failure to make the play, Frazier feels he has guys in the secondary who can make big plays.

"I think we have the people that can do it," Frazier said. "We have some guys in our secondary who have done it before. But not only in our secondary - at linebacker, at wide receiver, at running back, at quarterback.

"We've got guys that have done it before and can do it, and there are going to be other opportunities. I don't think it will be the last time we're going to be in the game in the fourth quarter where we're going to need to make a play. Hopefully, next time it will be us making that play instead of them."

Quick hits

• Frazier was pleased with the performance of middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, who did not practice Thursday or Friday because of swelling in his left knee. "He ended up playing the entire game and played pretty good," Frazier said. "You really couldn't tell that he struggled the way he struggled during the week."

Tom Pelissero contributed

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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