Given time to reflect on the uniqueness of how things ended Sunday, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier didn’t budge from his initial reaction to a 26-26 stalemate with the Green Bay Packers.
“It was bittersweet in a lot of ways,” he said Monday.
Even though his team squandered a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, Frazier mostly tried to accentuate the positives, and the collective performance of a trio of young players belonged prominently on that list.
Audie Cole’s impressive debut as the starter at middle linebacker — combined with strong outings by first-round draft picks Cordarrelle Patterson and Xavier Rhodes — headlined the Vikings’ performance on a day that ended in ambiguity.
Cole produced a game-high 13 tackles with one sack, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits.
Patterson finished with season highs in catches (eight) and receiving yards (54). He also returned a kickoff 57 yards.
Rhodes recorded a career-high four pass breakups before suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter.
In his Monday news conference, Frazier noted the development of all three players and indicated that all three, in different ways, could see added responsibility in their roles.
The case for Cole
Cole made his first NFL start in place of Erin Henderson, who is dealing with a personal issue. Henderson returned to Winter Park on Monday, but Frazier did not have an immediate update on his status.
Though he missed a few tackles, Cole flashed with his ability to pressure the quarterback. Frazier acknowledged that Cole’s performance will force his staff to consider changes.
“I tell you, he did a really good job for us,” Frazier said. “He did some things to make you take a hard look at where we are.”
Their options include keeping Cole as the starter and moving Henderson to his natural position on the outside. Or keep Henderson in the middle and play Cole outside.
“We’ll probably talk about what’s the best scenario to get the best 11 on the field,” Frazier said. “We’ll have to determine if Audie will be one of those 11 or how we’ll do it. It’s hard for me to answer that right now.”
The case for Patterson
Patterson played only 11 offensive snaps total in the first two games this season. He was targeted on 11 passes Sunday. That underscores the degree to which his role has evolved in recent weeks.
Frazier said recently that the coaching staff brought Patterson along as quickly as possible. He has been targeted a team-high 20 times the past two games and he’s replaced Jerome Simpson as the starter.