Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Here's the postgame press conference with Vikings coach Leslie Frazier after his team dropped a 44-31 decision to the Packers on Sunday night at Mall of America Field.
Frazier: Obviously a very disappointing loss to an NFC North opponent, tough loss for us. Couldn’t find a way to get off the field on 3rd down and really came back to haunt us. I think we were 2-for-8 on offense on 3rd down, so a combination of not being able to get off the field on defense, not being able to sustain drives on offense against a group that can score points. Just a disappointing night in that way. Liked the way our offense finished off the half, that was an impressive 2-minute drive. We weren’t able to come back out on defense at the beginning of the 2nd half and get a stop and give our offense a chance to get something going. Just allowing them to convert 3rd downs hurt us tremendously and it cost us at the end of that ballgame. Tough loss in a lot of ways, a lot of ways.
Q: How did Green Bay’s long touchdown drive after Cordarrelle Patterson’s kick return touchdown affect you?
A: It affects the momentum. You gain some momentum and you’re not able to get something going. Even then it’s the first quarter of the game so you want to settle down, figure out a way as the game goes on, knowing that the game is not going to be won in the 1st quarter, but we were never able to get the issues corrected on third down. It keeps you from building on the momentum you had with the opening kickoff but it shouldn’t be something that should keep you from having success over the course of the day if you can get it corrected and we weren’t able to get it corrected.
Q: How do you feel Christian Ponder looked?
A: He had some moments. He did some good things, for example that two-minute drive, that was good and then there were some other times where he ran our offense pretty good. There were times where he wasn’t as comfortable as you’d like to see him in the pocket but he did some positive things as well.
Q: Do you know who will start next week?
A: We’ll sit down tomorrow and talk it through and figure out what’s the best way to go.
Q: What can you do to fix your 3rd down defense?
A: I thought we had some momentum last week. We did much better on 3rd down, I thought we could build on that. But it’s been an issue. There is not much more we can do personnel wise. These are the guys that we have so we’ve got to figure out schematically what can we do to be better. It’s hard to play good defense if you’re not doing better on 3rd down than what we are right now. We were doing some good things in the 1st half against the run game but couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down to end some drives. So we’ve got to figure out some things to help the guys that are on the field to make some plays. We’ve got to make some plays. That 3rd-and-16, we got a guy free for a sack and couldn’t get him on the ground and the quarterback makes a play.
Q: With Green Bay missing three wide receivers, did tonight show what a good quarterback can do for an offense?
A: He definitely made some throws. It looked like we had pretty decent coverage and he made some very good throws, in some tight quarters.
Q: What can you say about Cordarelle and his performance tonight, including his record-breaking kickoff return?
A: Great job by Cordarrelle. He’s done a terrific job all season long on kickoff returns. I think he was the Special Teams Player of the Month for the first month of the season, so he’s continued that. He’s been terrific and kudos to the guys that are blocking for him, but he’s a major threat on kickoff returns without a question.
Q: Are you worried about this team staying together and keeping them motivated?
A: Tonight was tough. They worked hard this week to prepare for this game and got off to a great start with the kickoff and to not play better in third-down situations on defense, it hurts you but I don’t know if hurts us to the point where guys give in. It just seems like we have strong enough character and strong enough leadership on this team that the guys will come back and prepare well for this next ballgame. We do need to give them some hope and do some things better than what we’re doing but we’ve just got to find a way to give them some hope for all the work they are putting in.
Q: What do you think you have to do to improve defensively?
A: I don’t how many times I can say that third down is an issue. If we can get some third down stops and make that percentage a whole lot better than it was tonight, I think that will definitely improve our defense. You can’t let people put together the kind of drives that they put together tonight no matter who the quarterback is. You just don’t have a chance if people are able to put together 15-play drives, 10-play drives on a consistent basis and score touchdowns and not field goals. It’s hard.
Q: Do you see the defense getting worn down at the end of games because the offense isn’t able to sustain drives?
A: We’ve talked about that some. You’ve still got to find ways on defense, but you want to sustain drives, you want to be the team that is putting together 12 and 15-play drives and finishing with touchdowns. We haven’t been able to do that on a consistent basis on offense this season and it’s something we’re working on, we’re talking it through, we’re looking at tape, we’re trying to figure out ways to keep drives going because one of the things that it does is keep the ball out of Adrian’s hands as well when we aren’t able to stay on the field. It’s been an issue, got another ballgame to try and get it fixed.
Q: Did you think about going for a 2-point conversion to try and it get it down to a 2 possession game?
A: The first one we did, the second one not so much. We backed away from it, but the first one we did.
Vikings safety Harrison Smith will miss Monday night's game against the New York Giants because of turf toe.
Smith suffered the injury in Sunday's loss to Carolina, and has been in a walking boot all week. Turf toe usually involves sprained tendons in a big toe, and requires rest or surgery. Frazier said the Vikings are discussing both options, and are also considering putting Smith on injured reserve-designated to return. That status means a player is inactive for eight weeks, but can return at that point. Teams can use that designation on one player per season.
Frazier said the team will make a decision on Smith in "a few days." Andrew Sendejo will replace Smith in the starting lineup.
The Vikings put linebacker Desmond Bishop (knee) on injured reserve, meaning he is out for the season, and promoted wideout Rodney Smith, a rookie from Florida State, to the active roster. Safety Brandan Bishop, a rookie from North Carolina State, was added to the practice squad.
Marvin Mitchell will replace Desmond Bishop, who was injured against Carolina as well, in the starting lineup, with rookie Gerald Hodges as the backup.
Frazier also said receiver Greg Childs, on the PUP list all season after double knee surgery last year, could start seeing some work on the field soon.
Running back Adrian Peterson, who missed yesterday's practice because of "personal reasons" is back today. He is expected to hold his weekly press briefing this afternoon.
The Vikings will be without outside linebacker Desmond Bishop for the remainder of the season.
Bishop, in his first start for the team, tore the ACL in his right knee in Sunday's 35-10 loss to Carolina. Coach Leslie Frazier said this afternoon that an MRI revealed the injury, and Bishop faces reconstructive knee surgery. Marvin Mitchell will step back into his previous role as a starting outside backer.
Bishop (@Desbishop55) sent out a string of tweets later in the afternoon:
Ppl close to me won't agree but I feel I let u down. To my family, teammates, coaches, Vikings organization, fand & mostly myself..I'm sorry
So much I wanted to accomplish this year, so much I wanted to help my team accomplish is gone! Miffed that I couldn't prove doubters wrong
I'm a firm believer that the universe always even things out... Never too high/never too low.. That's how I know my future burns bright!!
But with all that said, its back to the drawing board for me. I've Been here before & it's a hard & humble path but I'm embracing every step
Thanks for the support tho it is and was appreciated no doubt!! God give the toughest challenges to those he know can endure.. I'll be back!
The rest of the injury report: Safety Harrison Smith (turf toe) has an MRI scheduled for today. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes sprained an ankle in Sunday's loss, but Frazier said Rhodes should be ready for Monday night's game in New York against the Giants.
Smith walked through the locker room during the access period wearing a grimace and a walking boot. Turf toe is commonly a ligament sprain around the joint of a big toe.
No QB news: Frazier said he would make a decision on the starting quarterback by Wednesday. Matt Cassel struggled to move the team on Sunday in relief of the benched Christian Ponder, and it seems likely that newly acquired Josh Freeman might take over.
"It would be a bit difficult [to step in to the Vikings' system], but Josh is a bright young man," Frazier said.
About the CBs: Frazier seemed to absolve cornerback Josh Robinson from much of the blame Robinson has been taking after being apparently victimized for two touchdowns -- a 2-yarder to Steve Smith and a 79-yarder to Brandon LaFell. LaFell beat Robinson out of the slot on the 79-yarder, but it looked as if Robinson anticipated zone coverage and Rhodes was playing man-to-man. Rhodes might have had coverage responsibility on that play.
"Josh actually did a pretty good job for us yesterday," Frazier said. "I know some will think he didn’t do some things well, but he did some good things in that ballgame, had one of his better ball games inside, didn’t give up any big plays for us, which was encouraging.
"Xavier ... there are some things he can definitely do better, he’s got to defend certain routes better than he is, but some of that will be in the inexperience that he has, and as he gains more experience, he gets put in some of those same situations, he should get better and better."
Rhodes, one of the few players to appear in the locker room during a one-hour media access, didn't go into detail on the 79-yarder, calling it a "miserror."
The Vikings haven't spoken to former Vikings cornerback and now former Seahawks cornerback Antoine Winfield, who informed the Seahawks on Saturday that he was retiring.
Apparently, the door is still open. Here's what coach Leslie Frazier had to say when asked about Winfield after today's practice:
"I have a ton of respect for Antoine," Frazier said. "He did a lot of good things for us here. He had a great career here in Minnesota. He really helped me look good at times with some of the plays he made. I have a deep affection for him.
"If he wanted to play [this season], I'd welcome the opportunity to work with Antoine again if that's what he wanted to do. But if he's retired, I wish him nothing but the best. He's been a great player, a great person. He's going to enjoy retirement."
Asked if he's spoken to Winfield in the past two days, Frazier said, "I haven't spoken to him. I may give him a call today just to wish him well."
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