With a number of starters injured, several Vikings reserves played key roles in the 34-27 victory over Washington last Thursday. Coach Leslie Frazier was asked to report on what the film showed of those fill-in players.
Andrew Sendejo, starting in place of Harrison Smith at safety, made a career-high 16 tackles against the Redskins. He has 44 on the season after entering 2013 with only 10 tackles over three NFL seasons.
“He had an excellent game for us,” Frazier said of Sendejo. “He has been a very good player for us on special teams. To ask him to step in and play the starting safety position, you don’t always know what you’re going to get. You hope that a guy is going to play well enough not to hurt you, but he played very, very well for us that night. … He did a very, very good job.”
Frazier also had good things to say about former Chicago Bears offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb, a waiver claim by the Vikings before the season.
“J’Marcus Webb came in and did a very good job after Phil Loadholt was out from suffering a concussion,” Frazier said. “J’Marcus played a very good game for us. This is his first start for us, and he did a good job in run blocking, a good job in pass blocking. We had a number of guys that stepped up in that ballgame because we had so many injuries. It was good to see.”
On reserve offensive lineman Joe Berger, Frazier said: “[He] stepped up. We didn’t have Charlie Johnson, that was a loss for us, but Joe stepped in. He’s a guy who can play both guard and center, and he played very, very well.”
While several reserves had good games, veteran defensive lineman Kevin Williams had a resurgence with a season-high seven tackles and 2½ sacks.
“That was great to see. We’ve seen spurts of that from Kevin but not on a consistent basis like what we saw on Thursday night,” Frazier said. “Boy, whatever he ate before that ballgame, we need to make sure he’s eating that every game because he was outstanding and really one of the differences for us in turning it around in the second half. He played a great game.”
Frazier also was pleased with the play of defensive tackle Chase Baker, who recorded his first tackle of the season.
Frazier also talked about tight end John Carlson, who had his best game of the season, catching seven passes for 98 yards and a touchdown.
“We all had hoped to see John step up and make some plays for us, especially with Kyle Rudolph being out and now he’s going to be out for a little while,” Frazier said. “To see John come in, it was just great for our team, great for John. He’s one of those guys that you root for — he’s just a class guy — and to see him play as well as he did was just fantastic.”
Frazier also praised the performance of Christian Ponder, who posted his highest quarterback rating of the season at 113.1, completing 17 of 21 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
“Not only was he throwing the ball efficiently, but he ran the ball so well,” Frazier said. “He did a great job getting out of trouble, avoiding sacks; he played probably one of his best games since he’s been here. Unfortunately, he got the [left shoulder] injury when he was running, but his effort to score a touchdown … that’s the kind of guy you root for. He really sold out trying to get that touchdown. It’s just a great job by Christian all the way through.”
Did Frazier ever give up on him as a quarterback?
“Oh no, you know he has his ups and downs, like a lot of players do that play that position when they’re young,” the coach said. “I think this time where he wasn’t in the starting lineup — it seems like it has helped him just to be able to sit back and see some things, and to see the way he played on Thursday night, that’s what you want.
“That’s what we’ve all hoped for. Now we just want to be able to build on that type of play, because he did a terrific job on Thursday night.”
• With starting center Jon Christenson lost for the season because of a broken leg suffered Nov. 2 at Indiana, Gophers football coach Jerry Kill was asked how well Tommy Olson is filling in for Christenson. “Tommy Olson has done a great job,” Kill said. “It’s probably pretty special in their family that you have Tommy and Eddie [Olson, an offensive tackle] on the same offensive line right now and getting a chance to play together, two brothers, and their family is just great people — kids that really, really care and it’s really neat to see. I’m so happy for their family and I’m happy for our football team because he has stepped in and done a great job.”
• Former Cretin-Derham Hall standout Michael Floyd has 36 receptions for 464 yards and two touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals, putting him well on pace to surpass his rookie season totals of 45 receptions for 562 yards. … Floyd’s teammate and former Holy Angels star Larry Fitzgerald Jr. has 39 receptions for 493 yards and five TDs.
• Former Gopher Eric Decker continues to be a key receiver for Peyton Manning, even with the Broncos’ addition of Wes Welker in the offseason. Decker is averaging 14.7 yards per catch and has 49 receptions this season — putting him on pace to set career high for receiving yards. His 721 receiving yards rank 14th in the NFL.
• The Gophers wrestling team is ranked third in the nation behind Penn State and Iowa in the intermatwrestle.com poll. Heavyweight Tony Nelson, the two-time defending NCAA champion, is the lone Gopher ranked No. 1 in his weight class. The USA Today coaches poll ranks the Gophers No. 2 behind Penn State.
• Kyle Okposo, who played for the Gophers hockey team in 2006-07 and part of 2007-08, entered Wednesday tied for 10th in the NHL in scoring with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) through 19 games with the New York Islanders. One point behind Okposo was former Gopher Phil Kessel, who has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) through 17 games for the Maple Leafs. Toronto played the Wild on Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center.
• Iowa State men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, the former Timberwolves player and assistant general manager, will have two Minnesota recruits in Ames on Sunday when his Cyclones play Michigan. They are former Cooper standout Rashad Vaughn, ESPN’s No. 17-ranked prospect in the Class of 2014 who is playing in Las Vegas, and Grand Rapids’ Alex Illikainen, ESPN’s No. 55 recruit in the Class of 2015.
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