Hartman: Billick says Vikings need to make changes

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 14, 2013 - 6:25 AM

The ex-Vikings coach says the defense must be revamped and a switch to Freeman should come sooner than later.

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Carolina quarterback Cam Newton scrambled away from Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen in the first half.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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Brian Billick, an assistant coach with the Vikings from 1992 to 1998 and who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 as a head coach, was the television analyst on the Vikings’ 35-10 loss to Carolina on Sunday, and he said he didn’t expect the game to be so lopsided.

“Obviously defensively, Carolina had their way with the front seven of the Minnesota Vikings,” Billick said. “They’re going to have to change fundamentally what their doing, possibly, because their front seven is not holding up against a good, physical front and run game like we saw in Carolina.

“Offensively, they brought [quarterback] Josh Freeman in to make a difference. It might be in a couple weeks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see him this week against New York. … I think this is a good place for him, and I think he’ll have some success.”

Billick said quarterback Matt Cassel just didn’t look comfortable in the pocket.

“You know, he just couldn’t get anything done,” he said. “He’s all about timing, getting the ball out quick, [but he] didn’t have any opportunity today because they couldn’t stay on the field, for one, and Carolina was able to gobble up the clock.”

Billick said he believes Carolina is better than its 1-3 record coming into the game indicated, and that proved to be the case Sunday. The Panthers offense was led by quarterback Cam Newton, who completed 20 of 26 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns.

“[Newton has] great physical skills; he just has to show this kind of consistency going forward,” Billick said.

When asked if he remembers taking losses like these as a head coach, Billick didn’t hesitate in responding. “Oh gosh, yeah,” he said. “I’ve been on the tail end of enough of these. It’s painful.”

Billick still had positive things to say about the Vikings organization.

“I think they have a good future,” he said. “It’s a good, solid organization. They obviously have to decide on the direction quarterback-wise and probably need to reshuffle on the defense a little bit.”

Panthers dominated

Asked why Carolina dominated the Vikings on Sunday, defensive end Brian Robison said: “There’s nothing to figure out. They came in here and they whooped our tail. They didn’t do anything we didn’t expect. We didn’t expect to get whooped that bad.”

Was Newton the difference?

“Obviously he’s a heck of a player,” Robison said. “You see the things he can do out there today, but the bottom line is we didn’t play winning football today, and we have to get it figured out. That always has to be your thought process when you’re out there, that things are going to turn around. But you have to force things to turn around, and we didn’t do that today.”

Robison said it’s becoming repetitive, trying to figure out what’s wrong with the team’s defense, which was so solid last year.

“Seems like we come up with a new theory every week, but I don’t know, man,” he said. “We’re missing tackles. They’re finding the gaps. We have to make sure that we don’t allow those gaps to open up. We have to get back to fundamental defense. Everybody has to be in their gap and we have to make sure that we play winning football.”

How is this defense different from last year?

“We’re not playing good ball,” he said. “Mentally, we’re ready. We come out every week thinking that we’re going to do the things that we’ve always done, smash the run and get after the quarterback.”

Was that first possession by Carolina — a 15-play, 62-yard march that lasted 9 minutes, 29 seconds and ended with Newton’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith — deflating to the defense?

“We’re at home,” Robison said. “You never want to allow a team to come in here and drive the ball the way they did. I don’t know how many plays that drive was, but I know it was too many. I know when you look up on the clock and you see 1:30 or 1:00 [left] on the clock and they’ve only had one possession, you know their offense has had the ball too long.”

“There are no excuses here,” Robison added. “Bye week, days off, to me you can throw that out the window. Bottom line is we came in here and just got stomped in the face.”

Now the Vikings’ Monday night game with the New York Giants on Oct. 21 becomes crucial. If the team has five losses after six games, their chances of making the playoffs are gone.

Ponder wants to play

Christian Ponder, the only quarterback the Vikings definitely have signed for next year — Matt Cassel signed a two-year contract last March that could be voided after this season, and Josh Freeman is signed for the rest of this year — said he wasn’t surprised how well the Carolina defense played

“I think for anybody that is on the sideline and wants to be out there, it’s tough,” Ponder said. “But you have to give credit to Carolina. They played well, they have a good defense and we knew that. I don’t know what else to do, we just have to play better.”

Does Ponder believe he’ll start another game for the Vikings?

“It’s not my decision,” he said. “I don’t know what the future holds, but we’ll see.”

Could he have done a better job at quarterback on Sunday, given the chance?

“It doesn’t really matter,” he said. “I mean, you know I don’t know what would have happened. Carolina has a really good defense and they stopped the run and the offense couldn’t get in a rhythm. We have to play better, and we have to prepare better.”

Ponder was asked if he would be interested in going to another club if he doesn’t get the chance to start here.

“I’m just worried about getting healthy, and we’ll see how this coming week goes,” he said. “I was cleared by the doctors to play. … You know it is what it is. It’s a situation. I’m focused on what I can control and that’s my preparation and getting better in practice and I’m going to continue to do that and make it as tough of a decision for Coach as possible.”

And how did he feel Cassel played in his second Vikings start?

“I felt like he did what he could do,” Ponder said. “Their defense played well, got some pressure in the backfield, and he was put in some situations that were tough. He made some mistakes, but we’ll learn from the film. I know he’s a hard critic on himself, and we’ll see what he says. We knew they were a good defense. They have a good front and they played well.”

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM 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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