Hartman: Vikings will be ready for Round 2 vs. Packers

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 7, 2011 - 1:35 PM

Coach Leslie Frazier said his team is confident coming off the bye and heading into its Monday night meeting at Lambeau Field.

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Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder

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Leslie Frazier spent part of Sunday scouting the Packers, the Vikings' opponent next Monday, on television in their 45-38 victory over the Chargers where they had a 21-point lead and were fortunate to win by seven.

"They gave up a lot of points in our game, too, and they still won," the Vikings coach said. "Their offense can outscore just about everybody.

"... They look great, their offense is one of the best in the NFL, if not the best. They look good."

The Vikings gave the Packers a good battle at the Metrodome, losing 33-27 on Oct. 23. On the basis of that game, Frazier said: "There's no question, we believe we can beat them. We're going to go up there and expect to beat them."

Frazier said he believes one advantage the Vikings have going into Lambeau Field is that rookie quarterback Christian Ponder will be getting his second look at the Packers.

"His first start was against them, so he knows their defense, he knows the particulars. I think that should help him," Frazier said.

"[Ponder] plays with so much grit, with such guts, it's just incredible to think this is only his third start coming up. He's right on board."

Frazier said another advantage the Vikings will have this week over their previous matchup with the Packers is that there is a good chance that veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield will finally be back along with a healthier Percy Harvin. Winfield has missed the past four games because of a neck injury. Harvin sat out the second half vs. Green Bay because of a rib injury that has bothered the receiver all year.

"I think [the bye week] will help Percy with his ribs," Frazier said. "With the other guys it's just that the more rest, that should help them."

There's also the question of whether cornerback Chris Cook will be available after his arrest on felony assault charges. A decision could be made Monday on Cook's future, and if he is available it will be a big boost to the secondary.

Mistakes hurt Gophers

Certainly, the Louisiana State-Alabama game featuring the top two college football teams in the country was of greater importance than Gophers-Michigan State, but Gophers coach Jerry Kill compared Alabama's mistakes to those by the Gophers in their 31-24 loss to the Spartans.

"The kids played hard and I appreciated their effort of playing hard, but it's no different than coming home, and I watched the Alabama and LSU game and they've got the same problems we've got," Kill said. "You get two or three blown coverages and you don't perform in the kicking game as well as you should, and you can't win the close games. Alabama didn't do it against LSU, and we didn't do it against Michigan State."

A poor day of punting (36.6 yards per kick) and two costly 15-yard penalties might have been the difference in winning and losing.

On the positive side, Kill sang the praises of quarterback MarQueis Gray, who had a big day, completing 19 of 32 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 71 yards.

"He's getting better," Kill said of Gray. "I think the big thing was that he got hurt early this season and that set him behind a little bit. I think he's growing in the position. He played very, very well on Saturday. I'm very pleased with his progress, his attitude. He's making some people around him even get better.

"That's the sign of a good quarterback. We played the No. 2 defense in the country yesterday, and we were able to move the ball. I just think we're all very disappointed today because we let an opportunity get away that we could have had."

Phillies wanted Thome earlier

It turned out that the Phillies contacted Jim Thome, who signed with the Phillies for 2012, almost as soon as the World Series was over expressing their desire to bring him back as a pinch hitter. The former Twins star has a strong relationship with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel dating to their days with the Indians, and Manuel reported that they tried to land Thome this past season before the Twins traded him to Cleveland.

Thome is now trying to recruit Twins free agent Michael Cuddyer. "We've texted a little bit. We've talked," Thome told the Philadelphia press about his contact with Cuddyer. "All I can say is that Michael is a great player. He's a winner. He is a stand-up guy."

Thome, always cited as one of the best teammates to have in the majors, added that he would put Cuddyer as one of his top five teammates. "No question he is up there," Thome said.

It's possible that Cuddyer might be on the verge of signing with the Phillies, who certainly will pay him a lot more money than the Twins.

Meanwhile, fellow Twins free agent Jason Kubel said he hasn't heard anything about re-signing since the Twins made an offer to him during the season.

Jottings

• One week after throwing for a career-high 323 yards, former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson had his worst start with the Seahawks on Sunday, going 17-for-30 for 221 yards and three big interceptions in a 23-13 loss to Dallas. Former Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice caught three passes for 69 yards, although Jackson threw eight passes in all to him. Through six games, Rice has 27 receptions for 435 yards -- a total already good for his second-highest season total in receiving yards, trailing only his 2008 Pro Bowl season playing with Brett Favre, when he had 1,312 yards.

• Former Gophers receiver Eric Decker continues to have a stellar season for the Denver Broncos. He caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow Sunday, giving Decker seven TDs, including one on a punt return. He briefly shared the AFC lead in touchdowns with Baltimore's Ray Rice, but he scored his eighth TD Sunday night.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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