Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about Leslie Frazier

Vikings are 9-6? Vikings are 9-6

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 23, 2012 - 6:24 PM

Win or lose next week, make the playoffs or not, the Vikings are overachivers this year, and the way they manhandled two of the league's best teams lends credence to Leslie Frazier's approach.

The Vikings manhandled the 49ers at home. They manhandled the Texans on the road.

When Christian Ponder doesn't lose the game for them, the Vikings tend to win.

They're 9-6 now, and one victory away from the playoffs, and winning with a style that seems sustainable and a  young roster that seems capable of growth.

Ponder and the defense should get much of the credit for the victory. I think the coaching staff should get a game ball for this one. Chad Greenway said the game plan was to choke off the Texans' running game, which woulid hamper their ability to use play action and bootlegs. It worked.

While Andre Johnson caught passes in the middle of the field, he didn't hurt the Vikings' deep.

Offensively, Bill Musgrave designed another game plan that set Ponder up to succeed. He scripted easy throws early, and obviously encouraged Ponder to use his legs when appropriate. Ponder has looked like a much more confident quarterback the last two weeks, especially when on the move.

I know the Pagano-Arians pairing in Indianapolis will receive most of the coach of the year votes, and they have a great and emotional case. I think Leslie Frazier deserves consideration, it not a slew of first-place votes. This team looked hopeless last year, and he has this gorup of players playing with fire and cohesiveness.

As I've noted before this season, Frazier has also helped make this a class organization. I can't remember the last time I covered a winning Vikings team that was this much fun to be around.

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I'll be on 1500ESPN at 2:05 on Monday with Patrick Reusse, and on WJON in St. Cloud with Jay Caldwell at 7:15 a.m.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Big weekend for Mn sports

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 17, 2012 - 9:12 AM
It was quite a weekend for Minnesota sports fans, a weekend made possible by perhaps the two most popular athletes in the Twin Cities these days.
One captivated because of accomplishment, the other because of promise. Both exceeded expectations while coming off of major knee surgery.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 212 yards, moving him within reasonable striking distance of Eric Dickerson’s rushing record of 2,105.
Ricky Rubio returned to Target Center and made the kind of deft, heady plays that have made him a national phenomenon.
That’s not an exaggeration. When you talk to national NBA writers and talk to people around the country, they find Rubio more interesting than any Wolves player since Kevin Garnett was a teenager.
Both have a chance, in the season following ACL surgery, to lead their teams to the playoffs. And both teams currently hold the sixth seed in their respective conferences.
We tend to speak of the local sports scene as if it’s one big organism, when actually it’s a collection of independent businesses. But if we want to toss all of local sports into the same category, things are looking up.
The Vikings have a chance to go to the playoffs in what I thought would be a rebuilding year.
The Wolves have a chance to go to the playoffs despite a stunning array of injuries and a recent history of awful personnel moves.
The Twins are building a future winner and could, with one more veteran pitcher, be more competitive this season.
The Wild will play again…someday.
The Gopher basketball team is the best of Tubby Smith’s tenure.
And Gopher football is in a bowl game, which, while it doesn’t impress me, is better than the alternative.
Other than Peterson’s long runs, the most interesting play of the Vikings’ victory, to me, was Everson Griffen’s interception return for a touchdown.
On the play, Chad Greenway faked a blitz from the left side of the defensive line. At the snap, he sprinted to the right flat to cover. Griffen dropped from defensive end into coverage as safety Harrison Smith dropped deep. Bradford saw Griffen but thought he could get the ball past him.
Griffen was an outstanding high school running back. He’s a remarkable athlete. Once the ball was in the air, the Rams were in trouble. Griffen intercepted and scooted down the right sideline to the end zone, shaking off a tackler.
Greenway put his hand in the air, the touchdown, when Griffen was still 20 yards from the end zone. Griffen’s teammates know how talented he is.
Tampa-2 defenses are known for predictability. That play was the latest example of Leslie Frazier and Alan Williams’ ability to mix up coverages and looks this year. And it was the latest of Griffen’s plays that justified the team’s patience with him when he was known for throwing wild parties and underachieving.
Another fascinating week awaits.
The Wolves face Miami and Oklahoma City. The Vikings travel to Houston to face the Texans, who allowed 105 yards to Colts running back Vick Ballard on Sunday.
I’ll be on 1500espn today, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 2:05 p.m., and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 each morning to talk sports. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

Pondering Ponder Again

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 9, 2012 - 6:07 PM

You can look at it as a positive, that the Vikings' running game and defense were strong enough on Sunday that they rarely needed to throw the ball.

Or you can look at it realistically and say that quarterback Christian Ponder continues to regress.

Sunday, he completed 11 of 17 passes, which is fine, but he threw for just 91 yards against a defense stacked up to stop Adrian Peterson. He took just one sack, but almost fumbled while foolishly trying to throw the ball away on a play that could have turned into a game-turning fumble.

He threw one awful interception into triple coverage. And he continued to look skittish in the pocket.

His post-game press conference lasted less than two minutes, because we have nothing left to ask him and he has nothing left to say.

He's a nice guy, if that sort of thing matters to you. He really is. He's accountable and friendly and honest and all that good stuff. But he's playing lousy football.

If there was a positive development in the passing game, it was that there were a few Michael Jenkins sightings on Sunday. He caught four of the five passes thrown his direction. With Kyle Rudolph catching zero passes, Jenkins at least helped move the chains a few times.

My Monday column is about what the victory meant for the team and Leslie Frazier.

I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud on Monday at 7:15, and on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. with Reusse & Mackey.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

What a whipping

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 25, 2012 - 11:27 PM

My column deals with the details of the whipping the Vikings took on Thursday night.

Here, I"ll address a few other topics.

-The Vikings had been remarkably healthy this season. Even Adrian Peterson had played in every game after underdoing major knee surgery in the offseason. Their luck changed Thursday, when cornerback Chris Cook suffered a broken wrist.

Secondary depth and talent had been one of the reasons for the Vikings' 5-2 record. That depth is gone now.

-If the Vikings wanted to think of themselves as a playoff team, they needed to capitalize on all of their winnable games. Playing at home on a short week against a losing team should have given them an opportunity to go 6-2, giving them some margin for error during the difficult second half of the schedule.

Now they're 5-3. Their victories are against an awful Jacksonville team, a very good 49ers team, the woeful Lions, the not-very-good Titans and the fast-falling Cardinals.

They'll need to go at least 4-4 in the second half to have a chance to make the playoffs, and they'll have to beat some good teams to achieve that. Their remaining games: at Seattle, Detroit, at Chicago, at Green Bay, Chicago, at St. Louis, at Houston and Green Bay.

That's not easy sledding even for a good team.

-Listening to Brian Robison and Leslie Frazier after the game, there are no illusions about their problems. When you pride yourself on physical play and defense and get run over by a small back two straight weeks, your pride is hurting. They are not happy.

-Peterson is having an amazing season. He's rushed 151 times for 775 yards, a 5.1-yard average and four touchdowns. He's caught 23 passes for 139 yards. He currently leads the NFL in rushing.

-Saw several fights in the stands tonight. This was a rowdy and often angry crowd. I understand booing when the team is getting blown out late, but the booing started in the first quarter. I find that strange.

 

More on Vikings win

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 24, 2012 - 10:34 AM
 
I wrote about the obvious trust between Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph in today’s paper.
This might sound trite, but trust matters in the NFL. It matters a lot.
NFL teams ask their players to risk their health during short careers for the good of the franchise. For players to be eager to do so, it helps if they have reason to believe in the key people in the organization. And, during the season, the two people they have to trust the most are their head coach and quarterback.
Who knows whether beating the 49ers will mean anything in a few weeks? If the Vikings get whipped in Detroit, and that is a very real possibility, with Calvin Johnson facing a still-suspect secondary, then we may wind up viewing this victory as an aberration.
But it could matter no matter what happens this week, because Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder gave their team reason to trust them on Sunday. Frazier’s vision of a physical team that wins with a running game and a stout defense materialized against the NFL’s gold standard in those departments. And Ponder displayed the ability to make clutch plays and beat a good team in his 13th start in the NFL.
His peers on the roster – young teammates like Kyle Rudolph and John Sullivan – rave about Ponder’s leadership abilities. But if you don’t win, the whole team won’t buy in. Ponder and Frazier moved closer to instilling faith in the roster on Sunday.
-One of the reasons I wrote about Ponder's three touchdown plays today is because so many NFL games turn on one, or two, or three big plays. Had Ponder executed poorly, or made poor decisions, on his three touchdown plays, the Vikings could have wound up with three or six points. Instead, Ponder produced 21 points. That's how upsets happen.
And had Ponder's worst pass of the day turned into a 49ers' touchdown, we might be talking about a loss today.
That's why the NFL is so unpredictable. And that's why I don't bet on sports.
-I can't remember being less interested in a Yankee-Twins series since 2000.
-Stat geeks favor Mike Trout as the AL MVP. Players and old-school writers favor Miguel Cabrera.
I think Trout is the more valuable player in theory, because he does everything well while playing exceptionally well in the field at a pivotal position. But within the context of this season, Cabrera's more valuable, simply because Cabrera has been exceptional while playing in more games. He's simply produced more for his team.
It's not Trout's fault that he wasn't with the Angels from Opening Day on. But the time he missed made him a less-valuable commodity over the course of a six-month season. And while Trout is far superior in the field, Cabrera's willingness and ability to play third base, however poorly, opened up first base and DH for the Tigers, making them a stronger team. That mitigates his fielding woes.
Cabrera has produced far more runs that Trout this season. He has a higher slugging percentage. Their on-base percentage is a virtual tie. And while stat geeks are correct when they say that RBI is not a good statistic for evaluating offensive efficiency, it is a very important stat within the context of a season, and an MVP race.
Games are won and lost based on whether a hitter can produce runs. Cabrera has excelled in that category over six months. He's the MVP.
-I’ll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
 

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