Vikings adjusting routes, protection calls to try to help passing game
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings are making adjustments to their routes and protection calls this week as they try to snap out of a major slump in the passing game on Sunday against Detroit.
"You see things on tape where you know people are getting a good feel for our rhythm and how we do things," coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday. "We've got to make a few adjustments and that's what we're going to try to do for our ballgame."
Christian Ponder was 11-of-22 passing for just 63 yards and an interception in last weekend's loss to Seattle -- the second time in three games he has come up well short of the 100-yard mark.
The Vikings now rank 30th in the NFL in passing offense. But Frazier continued to deflect blame from his second-year quarterback and said he hasn't considered removing Ponder for a game or even a series.
"Part of it will be some of the adjustments that we'll make with some of the routes that we're asking our receivers to run and also what we're doing protection-wise to help our quarterback," Frazier said. "So, we're going to make some adjustments that we think will help us -- without being too specific about what those route adjustments will be."
Among other things, Frazier said the Vikings must find ways to work the middle of the field with tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has only two catches for 17 yards over the past three games.
Rudolph leads the Vikings with five touchdown catches but hasn't had a reception for longer than 18 yards since the opener, doing most of his damage in the red zone and short yardage.
"We need to find a way to uncover him in regular downs in a series as well," Frazier said. "That's one of the things we're working on for this ballgame. We're going to try to do some things to get him involved.
"It'll help our offense not to just work the perimeter with the wideouts, but to get Kyle involved as well. People are doing some things coverage-wise to try to affect him because we haven't hit some plays down the field, so they're trying to take our intermediate route game away. But we still have to find ways to get Kyle some touches."
It won't help the Vikings may not have top receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) available against the Lions, and Frazier acknowledged split end Jerome Simpson isn't himself since he began battling a back/foot issue either.
For his part, Ponder said he has "full confidence in what I'm doing" and isn't seeing repeat mistakes from the offense. He also said the right knee that has landed him on the injury report since Week 5 isn't an issue.
Asked about the schematic changes, Ponder said the Vikings are "not really abandoning anything, but Bill's come up with great plans and we're going to keep getting better and find guys open this week and I think especially, we match up well against this (Lions) defense.
"We're not overhauling our offense. But obviously, each week we're game-planning and scheming and trying to find ways to get guys open."
The Vikings have lost three of their past four games -- a stretch in which Ponder is 73-of-126 passing (57.9%) for 724 yards with four touchdown passes and six interceptions.
He acknowledged after the Seahawks game he's likely to hear boos and chants for backup Joe Webb if things don't go well on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Frazier said he has "had conversations" with Ponder about putting those struggles behind him as the Vikings enter a stretch of four consecutive NFC North Division games.
"We've got to concentrate on this ballgame and this ballgame only," Frazier said. "That's the only thing that really matters now. We've got to be so invested in this game plan and execution of this game plan that we can't be looking back. Just got to concentrate on getting better for this ballgame."