Notebook: Vikings will need Toby Gerhart to get a grip next time
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -Leslie Frazier had plenty to be excited about Monday as he broke down the film of his team's 24-13 upset victory over San Francisco from the previous day.
However, the Minnesota Vikings coach also went about looking at the corrections that needed to be made. Among the biggest concerns had to be the three fumbles that were charged to running back Toby Gerhart in the final 3 minutes, 33 seconds of the fourth quarter and occurred within a span of four offensive plays by the Vikings.
Two of the fumbles resulted in turnovers and while the first appeared to be a botched call by replacement referee Ken Roan, Gerhart admitted Sunday the last two fumbles were a case of him putting the ball on the ground.
"He'll look at the tape, we'll look at it with him and talk him through the situations," Frazier said. "We have a lot of confidence in him obviously to continue to give him the football, but we know we're going to need Toby to make big plays for us throughout this season and we've got to keep his confidence up. We know he's capable of hanging onto the football."
Gerhart, who is in his third season with the Vikings, has never had more than three fumbles in a season and has seven (five lost) in his career.
"He usually does a very good job with that," Frazier said, referring to Gerhart's ability to keep the football secure in his grasp. "We don't want him to go in the tank and get down. We need him to keep his head up and keep playing for us. But the balance of just encouraging him and letting him know we believe in him, we'll make corrections we have to make."
It was expected Gerhart would receive extensive playing time early in the season as Adrian Peterson returned from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. However, Peterson carried the ball 25 times on Sunday and has 58 carries on the season as opposed to 19 carries for Gerhart.
Linebacker Chad Greenway had an excellent game Sunday, making a team-high 13 tackles and adding two sacks and a tackle for a loss.
On Monday, Greenway said the game was extra special for him because his father was in attendance. Alan Greenway has battled cancer in recent months.
"My dad was able to make the game, so that was huge for me to just get the win and be able to have a lot of fun playing the game that I love and that I grew up around him loving," Chad said. "That was huge. That was a big part of it. ...
"I don't know if it felt any different. ... I just wanted it to be special. Nobody in this building knew that he was going to be there besides me, but I'm just so happy that we played that kind of football on a day that, for me, was important."
Chad said his father spent Monday in Rochester getting a checkup. "He's doing as well as can be expected," he said. "There's a long, tough row to hoe. But right now he's doing well."
Not so happy returns
The Vikings held a 17-3 lead Sunday when the 49ers' Kyle Williams returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter 94 yards to the Minnesota 14-yard line before he was tackled by Jamarca Sanford.
The Vikings defense held the 49ers to a field goal, keeping the momentum with the home team.
But the special teams continued to have issues on kick returns. In the fourth quarter, Williams went 50 yards to the Niners 43 to give San Francisco excellent field position.
The 49ers failed to take advantage as running back Frank Gore was stripped of the ball by Sanford on first down and linebacker Marvin Mitchell recovered.
Asked about giving up the kick returns, Frazier said: "We didn't stay in our lanes. We had some guys who were not where they should have been. They didn't take on blocks the way they needed to take on blocks. It cost us and it is something that we have to get fixed. I'm sure when our next opponent looks at the tape, probably their first return of the game is going to be that same return.
"So we will have to make sure we are where we are supposed to be and that we are separating from blocks. We didn't do a good job on that on both of those long returns."
Frazier didn't dismiss the fact that there might be some personnel changes on kick returns next Sunday in Detroit.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was sacked at least once in every one of his first 12 NFL starts.
That streak came to an end against the 49ers. The Vikings also rushed for 146 yards, which was the most against the 49ers in 19 games under coach Jim Harbaugh.
Given the opportunity, Frazier praised the offensive line on Monday and agreed it was their best game so far this season.
"When you consider the front they were going up against, that's a very good front," Frazier said. "For Charlie (Johnson, the left guard) to do as well as he did against Justin (Smith) throughout the day, for Matt (Kalil, the rookie left tackle) to do as well as he did against Aldon (Smith). It was a good performance across the board.
"I thought John (Sullivan, the center) did a good job, Brandon (Fusco, the right guard) and Phil (Loadholt, the right tackle). As a group to rush for 146 yards on that defensive line or that defense, it's pretty impressive and a lot of credit has to go to our offensive line."
Ponder called the 49ers' front seven "one of the best in the NFL."
"To not give up a sack was huge," he said. "They played unbelievably well."
He's still open
As Ponder looked at film of his 2-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph in the fourth quarter Sunday, he realized that standing very close to the well-covered tight end was Peterson. And the running back was wide open.
The only problem was that the 49ers were sending a blitz at Ponder and he only had time to execute the plan that had been called. Rudolph ended up making a nice one-handed catch and appeared to get away with some contact on San Francisco safety Donte Whitner.
"There was no one there (by Peterson)," Ponder said when asked if he saw his teammate open on film. "It was unbelievable. Complete dropped coverage. I wish I knew when they would drop coverage like that."
Ponder said Peterson didn't say anything to him about being open but added, "You can see him waving his arms on the film. I think if we wouldn't have completed that pass, he probably would have been a little upset."
Waiting his turn
Wide receiver Jarius Wright, a fourth-round pick by the Vikings last April, was inactive for the third game in a row Sunday, despite the fact he was listed as probable on the injury report last Friday.
Wright suffered a sprained ankle on Aug. 30 at Houston in the Vikings' preseason finale but the expectation was he might see time against the 49ers.
"I really don't know and I don't ask," Wright said when asked about sitting out again. "It's just when I'm up I play and when I'm down I watch and cheer on the team. I don't know what the problem was but I'm here to support the team regardless."
Asked if he felt like he could have played, Wright said: "Personally, I felt like I could go, but like I told you, it's not up to me and I respect the coach's decision."
Wright was expected to back up Percy Harvin as a slot receiver for the Vikings after catching 168 passes for 2,934 yards and 24 touchdowns in four years at Arkansas. That success in college has made it difficult for Wright to get used to life of being the new guy in the NFL.
"Coming from college and being in the NFL, college where you're needed and depended on so much and here I've been hurt and haven't gotten a chance to actually get out there and play," Wright said. "It's been kind of hard for me but everybody around here has been encouraging me and telling me to keep my head up."
• Harvin's 27 receptions led the NFL entering Monday night. Harvin had nine receptions for 89 yards in Sunday's game.
• The Vikings received an exemption from the NFL and can carry wide receiver Jerome Simpson as the 54th player on their roster until 3 p.m. Thursday. At that point, someone will have to be waived to get the roster down to 53.
• Defensive lineman Christian Ballard, who was poked in the eye Sunday, said he is fine. Ballard said he had swelling around the eye on Sunday night but that had gone down.