Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Leslie Frazier, Christian Ponder assess the Vikings' 17-6 loss to San Francisco

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Adrian Peterson, Leslie Frazier Updated: August 11, 2012 - 12:40 AM

The Vikings lost their preseason opener to the 49ers on Friday night at Candlestick Park. The offense moved the ball well early, producing field goal drives of 59 and 68 yards on the opening two series. But after that, the Vikings went their final seven possessions without scoring. Head coach Leslie Frazier and quarterback Christian Ponder finished meeting with reporters just a few minutes ago. Here are the highlights of what they had to say.

LESLIE FRAZIER

On Ponder’s play …

"It was good to see Christian come out and really get out offense going. And even though we came away with a couple of field goals, those first couple of drives that he was on the field, we hit a couple big plays in the passing game. So that was really encouraging. And the command that he showed and the confidence he played with early on."

On Ponder’s decision making …

"He made a couple of good decisions for us in the ballgame where his first read was taken away and he was able to find [something else]. Like on that play to Stephen [Burton, a 52-yard completion on the second play of the game]. His first read was taken away. But he was able to look down the field to find the second read. And there were other times when he was trapped in the pocket and he was able to escape and get rid of the football. Which is a sign of growth, as opposed to taking a sack. He just seemed much farther ahead. And we’ve seen that in practice and we’ve seen it throughout this offseason. That was encouraging. And he’ll get more reps next week, so he’ll have more opportunities to grow."

On Ponder’s big play to Burton to start the game …

"It was good for his confidence that he did that. Stephen is a guy we really want to be able to take a look at and see how he will respond in game situations. And for him to stay alive on that route when things are covered on the other side is encouraging as well. That wasn’t an easy catch that he made. If Christian can deliver the ball on target, that’s kind of what you want to see happen."

On the decision to start Burton …

"We just need to see him. He had limited exposure a year ago. And with the injury to Greg [Childs], we really felt like we needed to find out more about him. And we need to get more work from him in these remaining preseason games. But that was the thought process. We need to learn more about Stephen in these game situations."

On what went wrong against the run, with San Francisco piling up 260 rushing yards …

"I can’t say we were missing tackles. That wasn’t it. Maybe we weren’t in our gaps like we should have been – just from looking at some of the pictures. And they did a pretty good job of sealing some people off with some of the things they were doing blocking-wise. But more it was our just making sure that we were gap sound in some of the things we were doing. … There were a couple of times as a whole where we didn’t take good angles to the football. And that ended up hurting us. Even on that long [78-yard] run by their quarterback [Colin Kaepernick], we were just a little bit off of it with our backups. And it hurt us not being able to take those proper angles."

On Letroy Guion’s knee injury, a posterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee and what it means for the Vikings’ depth at nose tackle …

"Initially they’re telling me it’ll be a week or two. [We have Fred Evans] and obviously we have Trevor [Guyton], a guy we think can help us as well. But it doesn’t sound like we’re going to lose Letroy for an extended period of time. So I think he’ll be fine."

On letting back-up quarterback Joe Webb play five series …

"We wanted to continue to look at him. We wanted to give him the opportunities to continue to show that he’s in the right spot being a quarterback. We’re going to do the same thing next week – give him opportunities to continue to grow as a quarterback and throughout this preseason."

On Toby Gerhart’s solid performance …

"[I was encouraged] by how forceful he was. We’ve avoided contact with him in training camp. Haven’t wanted to take him down. And to see how forceful he ran the football and his presence. He’s a guy that’s hard to tackle. And he showed that again tonight. On that one toss we ran on a third-and-short situation, that was a heck of a job on his part. He had a couple of guys that had angles on him. And he did everything that was necessary to get us a key first down. He’s that kind of a back. He can break tackles. He can get you yards when it’s not blocked correctly. There aren’t a lot of guys like that."

On Blair Walsh’s two early field goals, from 39 and 26 yards, in windy conditions at Candlestick Park …

"It was good to see him come in and kick that field goal early. These conditions were not great conditions. And he showed some poise. And he had a touchback as well. So for his first outing, I thought he did a good job. I’m very encouraged and we’ll continue to give him opportunities. But this was not the optimal position to be in as a rookie, coming into these windy conditions. But he handled it well."

On whether running back Adrian Peterson will be back at practice on Sunday …

"We’ll discuss where he is and what the next step is for him this week. Will he continue to work through rehab? Or how will we approach it?"

****

CHRISTIAN PONDER

On the offense’s two early scoring drives …

"I thought it was a pretty good start. Obviously we’d rather come out with touchdowns rather than two field goals. But I thought we moved the ball pretty well against a good defense. A lot of positives. It also gives us a lot of film to look at come Sunday. And we probably have a lot of things to work on for the rest of the time we’re in Mankato and the rest of training camp before the actual first game against the Jacksonville Jaguars."

On throwing the ball away on a second-and-6 from the 49ers 8 on the second drive of the game …

"The time clock went off in my head. I went through three guys on my read and then just got the ball out. It’s important for us not to take sacks in the red zone. And I thought I made a smart decision."

On the mentality of avoiding sacks …

"We’re trying to eliminate the negative plays and not hurt ourselves. … I think [I have grown there]. Obviously last year, I had way too many turnovers. It’s something I’m trying to work on. Being smarter with the ball. Obviously I don’t want to be too careful and not take big plays and not take risks. But I have to be smart with the ball and I feel like that’s something I’m growing in. You learn what throws and what risks you can take and what you can’t. And you’d much rather take a short completion than a less percentage throw that you might be forcing. Right now, as an offense, we want the ball in our hands and we want to have as many play as possible at the end of the game. Obviously, we still want big plays. But we want to run that clock out and be efficient.

On the play of the offensive line …

"Outstanding. Outstanding. I had so much time back there, it was unbelievable. Like on that second play of the game [the big play to Burton] that allowed me to get to my third read on that post route. The line was unbelievable. I think that was a big statement for Matt Kalil to come in in his first game as a rookie and starting against a great defense. They all did extremely well. But it was exciting to see Matt do well."

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT