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Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder

Andy King, Associated Press

VIKINGS WEEK 9

3:05 p.m. Sunday at Seattle •

CenturyLink Field • TV: Ch. 9

(100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

Fundamentals: Vikings trying to clean up their act

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • October 30, 2012 - 12:09 PM

 

The promises were plentiful Monday at Winter Park. Four days after absorbing a dispiriting 36-17 home loss to Tampa Bay, the Vikings returned to work with refreshed minds and a vow to clean up the fundamental flaws that proved so embarrassing last Thursday.

In many ways, the Buccaneers' all-too-easy victory seemed to expose the Vikings as a team with every symptom of a playoff pretender -- costly turnovers, missed tackles, blown assignments, silly penalties, quarterback inconsistency.

But at the moment, the Vikings are certain their errors are all quickly correctable.

They even had a few straightforward slogans ready to pave the way toward the season's second half.

It is, after all, campaign season.

"We'll get it fixed," coach Leslie Frazier declared.

Added receiver Percy Harvin: "We're going to get it right."

Frazier and the coaching staff used Friday and Saturday to do a detailed self-evaluation. And they returned Monday to oversee a rare extra practice for Week 9, a 90-minute session that asked players to zero in on cleaning up basic techniques.

Defensively, that meant the Vikings got busy addressing their suddenly shaky run defense. Over the past three games, they have allowed opponents to rush for 468 yards.

Bucs rookie Doug Martin was the latest playmaker to run wild, piling up 214 total yards on 35 touches Thursday. That came four nights after Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling ran for 104 yards on 20 carries.

Yes, there has been a rash of missed tackles. But Frazier's video study revealed an alarming number of instances where his defense was not gap sound, gashed even when using eight-man fronts.

"You're not going to play good run defense if guys aren't where they're supposed to be," Frazier said.

So Monday, in what the head coach called a spirited "Vikings vs. Vikings" practice, the defense spent a significant amount of time reviewing basic run fits.

"A lot of this is just being more fundamentally sound and more assignment sound," linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. "A big thing for us is making sure you stay in your gap and not trying to play your gap and somebody else's too. Just do your job."

On offense, the diagnosis seems more complex.

Over the past two games, the Vikings have had as many turnovers (five) as scoring drives. Mix in a dozen three-and-outs and the frustration quickly has built.

Yet while second-year quarterback Christian Ponder has absorbed the brunt of the fan frustration, his offensive line and receiving corps acknowledge they, too, must be much sharper with their communication and route running to help sync things up.

"It's going back to basic fundamentals," Harvin said. "If it's a 12-yard route, [you're] not cutting it short at 8 yards. That just throws off the timing of the quarterback whether he has a three- or five-step drop. ... The plays are there. Looking on film, guys are open. We're just not clicking at the same time."

Harvin acknowledged his own need to be more patient running routes and said the offense began installing several new wrinkles Monday to plays that already have proven effective this season.

Harvin also noted the strategy Tampa Bay's defense used to befuddle the Vikings in a short week, with several Buccaneers telling him after the game they sent every brand of pressure possible.

"They threw all the blitzes they had and knew we didn't have enough time to prepare for all of them," Harvin said. "So it was going to be a hit-or-miss [deal]. If we would have gotten the ball off, it would have been 80-, 70-yard bombs. But we weren't able to and the plus went to them."

With the weekend off, the Vikings had extra time to detach from Thursday's loss, to step away and properly process a defeat that seemed incredibly ominous but also only added one defeat to an otherwise solid 5-3 start.

Said center John Sullivan: "It's easy to fall into the trap of getting overly discouraged and overly frustrated after one bad loss like that. But we all need to know that if we go out and perform against Seattle this Sunday, a lot of this will be forgotten."

At this stage of the season, perspective can be as valuable a medicine as any.

"This break comes at a good time for us," Frazier said. "You really feel like it's a clean slate and you're starting anew."

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