Notebook: 'You can win championships' with Vikings formula, coach says
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' victory on Sunday over Chicago wasn't pretty.
An early lead created by created by the continued dominance of running back Adrian Peterson, a key interception from cornerback Josh Robinson and a resilient showing defensively in the second half overshadowed the Vikings' obvious shortcomings, namely their ability to throw the football.
But coach Leslie Frazier remained adamant on Monday that win fits soundly into the blueprint for how his team needs to proceed to not only make a push in the season's final three weeks for a wild-card spot, but also to create long-term success.
"Ideally for us, this is how we want to win games," Frazier said. "We want to be able to run the ball effectively, throw the ball with play-action, bootlegs. Every now and then when somebody is in an eight or nine-man front take a shot over the top like with (Devin) Aromashodu (on Sunday) -- we were just off a little bit -- and then play solid defense and dominate on special teams.
"That formula, you can win championships with."
The Vikings' current formula is one that attempts to take the focus off their embattled passing game and make up for it with solid production on the ground and a stout defense.
Quarterback Christian Ponder's periodic struggles on Sunday weren't glaring enough to hamper the team, as was the case one-week earlier in a loss at Green Bay. With Peterson propelling the offense forward with a 154-yard game, Ponder was asked to throw only 17 times, completing 11 of those attempts for 91 yards.
It was the fourth games this season Ponder has completed 12 or fewer throws, failing to pass the 100-yard threshold for the third time. However, the Vikings have now won in two of those instances.
The victory against Chicago almost mirrored their Week 7 defeat of Arizona in which the Vikings escaped with a 21-14 win -- the same score as on Sunday -- despite Ponder's 58-yard outing.
Frazier admitted to his teams passing woes but preached that having a pass-heavy offense does not fit his vision.
"I don't see us being that type of team," Frazier said. "That's not the team that we went to training camp saying that we wanted to be. We want to be able to run the ball effectively, stop the run, create turnovers, play tough hard-nosed defense and win in every phase on special teams. (Sunday) we saw kind of what we've talked about."
The Vikings (7-6), who stand in ninth place in the NFC based on tiebreakers, face the likely reality that wins in their final three games will be needed to even have the potential to sneak into the playoffs.
The formula doesn't seem like it will be altered any time soon, so the Vikings are sticking with a philosophy that relies on a consistent run game and a defense able to come up with key turnovers to win games.
Without that, the results, as has been seen this year, can be disastrous.
"I believe with our defense if we're able to build some sort of lead our defense can handle any offense in the league. I really do believe that," end Brian Robison said. "We have the type of guys needed in the secondary, our D-line is second to none. ... But the bottom line is that if we allow teams to get us in (a deficit) it makes it very hard to battle back."
Praise for Ponder
Frazier admitted there remain issues with Ponder's "off-kilter" mechanics but praised the second-year quarterback for his contributions on Sunday -- namely, two third-down completions to Michael Jenkins that extended a Vikings drive in the fourth quarter.
"We were in a backed-up situation," Frazer said of the drive, which began at the Vikings' 1-yard line.
"I think we got the ball out to (the Bears 41) and we ended up punting, but it was a major part of our being able to win that game (Sunday), taking time off the clock, converting some key third downs at the quarterback position, and then getting them backed up to make them drive the length of the field and get back in the game.
"That efficient football, you can win with it if you don't turn the ball over and what he did in that fourth quarter was a major part of our success (Sunday)."
The Vikings could be forced to make a change in their secondary if cornerback A.J. Jefferson can't recover from a concussion before Sunday's game at St. Louis.
Jefferson suffered the injury on Chicago's last possession when making a tackle on a short pass to Bears' running back Matt Forte. Jefferson's status will remain in question, Frazier said, until he passes the NFL's mandated concussion tests.
If the third-year corner can't play, the Vikings are targeting Marcus Sherels as the primary replacement. Frazier mentioned he was also planning to give Brandon Burton increased reps in practice this week.
Apart from Jefferson, the Vikings appear to have emerged from Sunday mostly unscathed, as Frazier did not mention any other lingering injury concerns. Left guard Charlie Johnson tweaked his ankle in the second quarter, but noted after the game that he didn't expect it to be an ongoing issue.
After rumbling to his seventh straight 100-yard plus game, Peterson has drawn within 400 yards of the 2,000 yard mark on the year (1,600), and another 106 shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record (2,105). Making a final push at surpassing the record has become a large goal for the offense.
"I think it means a lot to the team," fullback Jerome Felton said. "Guys around the locker room are talking about it. You hear guys in the media talk about it, and you know it's within reach. It's something he's capable of doing, and he wants it, so we want it for him."
Out since Oct. 25 with a broken arm, cornerback Chris Cook is eligible to return next week in the Vikings' road match-up with Houston.
Frazier projected that Cook will be able to "practice more extensively" in the week ahead. Jefferson has filled Cook's spot in the five games he has missed.