Percy Harvin on Vikings' passing game struggles: 'It's very frustrating'
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Monday that he appreciates how competitive Percy Harvin can get during a game, but added that he and the wide receiver had discussed what happened Sunday when Harvin yelled at his coach during the second quarter of a loss in Seattle.
"We have a lot of competitive guys on our team that want to win and want to see things happen for our team and he's one of them," Frazier said. "I appreciate his competitiveness. There's a way to communicate and he and I have talked about some of that. We'll continue to work on that."
Fox television cameras caught Harvin voicing his displeasure in an obvious manner to Frazier after Blair Walsh made a 36-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 17-14 lead with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left before halftime.
Adrian Peterson had consecutive runs of 24 and 15 yards to spark the drive, and Harvin followed those with a 15-yard run to the Seattle 14. After a first-down screen to Toby Gerhart gained 3 yards, though, quarterback Christian Ponder missed Harvin on a bubble screen and then took a sack on third-and-7 as the protection collapsed in the face of a Seahawks blitz.
Harvin waved his arms as he came to the sideline and spoke demonstratively to Frazier, then followed the coach up the sideline until Frazier removed his headset to calm Harvin down.
Harvin, who caught a season-low two passes for 10 yards in the Vikings' 30-20 loss and suffered a sprained left ankle that landed him on crutches Monday, reiterated that his exchange with Frazier was "in the heat of the moment."
"We got three points," Harvin said. "I think the last two or three weeks I've been wanting to get seven and we didn't get seven. I thought we could have. So it was just a frustrating point in the heat of the battle. But it was nothing more than that."
With the Vikings' passing offense having dropped to 30th in the NFL after generating 63 yards on Sunday, Harvin did not attempt to hide the fact he's not happy with the situation.
"It's very frustrating," he said Monday. "I would be lying if I told you different. We've got a lot of work to do. We're all still confident we can turn this thing around."
But the clock is ticking with the Vikings sitting at 5-4 entering Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at the Metrodome.
Ponder's play has been a major issue - he has thrown for under 100 yards in two of the past three games - but it's not the only factor. The passing game as a whole is in a major funk and outside of Harvin the Vikings do not have a receiver capable of making plays on a consistent basis.
There also are more and more questions about offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's game plans and how predictable they might be.
"I'll let you all be the judge of that," Harvin said when asked about whether the selection of plays had become too easy for defenses to sniff out. "I'm just trying to go out there and just play at a high level and do what these coaches ask. I really don't get into the scheme things."
In getting off to a 4-1 start, Harvin and Ponder had a lot of success with bubble screens. Harvin even said that when opponents would call out that the bubble screen was coming they still couldn't stop it.
That was then, however, and this is now.
Defensive coordinators have decided that it was too easy for receivers like Michael Jenkins to block defensive backs on the bubble screens and have started to bring down safeties and linebackers to attack the play.
"Teams are starting to get creative in how they're trying to defend it, so we've just got to try to move people around and see if we can disguise it a little bit," Harvin said. "... We'll have to dial some different things up, see if we can get something else going."
Frazier, Musgrave and the rest of the offensive staff spent Monday going over the passing game and what can be done to help it. Those discussions will continue for the remainder of the week.
"We were looking at both protection (of the quarterback), as well as what we're doing route-wise, and also what we're doing schematically, when people are lining up and playing press coverage outside and single-high safeties," Frazier said. "Just some of the things we're doing schematically and what we have to do to uncover our wide receivers."
Of course, Ponder's play also is a primary topic.
After throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions in the Vikings' first four games, Ponder has thrown eight interceptions and six touchdowns in the past five games. He completed 11 of 22 passes Sunday with one interception and finished with a feeble 37.3 passer rating.
Frazier realizes that until the Vikings prove they can complete passes down the field, defenses are going to load up the box in order to stop the run and the short passing game. Peterson had 182 rushing yards Sunday and his team still lost by 10 points.
"We have to peel it back a little bit and figure out what we need to do to take advantage of what we're going to see probably for a while until we show we can consistently complete passes," Frazier said.
One thing that doesn't appear to be on the table is for Ponder to be replaced by backup Joe Webb at any point this season.
Frazier was asked Monday if he would consider allowing Ponder to take a step back by lifting him during a game and letting him watch from the sideline.
"I really haven't thought about pulling him from a game, or taking him out for a series or anything like that," Frazier said. "We do some things preparation-wise during the course of the week to prepare him for just about every situation that he sees and it comes back to us being able to execute when we're put in certain situations. But, no, no thought has gone into pulling him to be able to stand back and look at things."
Frazier maintained Monday that Ponder continues to have confidence, despite the fact it appears as if the quarterback has taken a hit in this area.
Frazier did say he wants Ponder to stay in the pocket longer and be more patient.
"There are times where, for whatever reason, he'll pull (the ball) down maybe a second too soon and we've got to work through that," Frazier said. "Just give those routes (the receivers are running) a chance to uncover."
Although Ponder was sacked four times on Sunday, Frazier downplayed the fact Ponder is getting too much pressure put on him.
"We haven't had consistent pressure (on us)," Frazier said. "We have had some moments where there has been pressure but we have to help (Ponder). We have to figure out what is creating that when it does happen and help him to get past it."