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.
Josh Freeman struggled in the Vikings’ 23-7 loss to the Giants on Monday night. He was 20-for-53 for 190 yards and an interception, and the Vikings scored no offensive points.
But Freeman will be the starting quarterback Sunday night when the Vikings play host to the Packers at the Metrodome, coach Leslie Frazier said this afternoon.
“Josh had a good week of practice for us,” Frazier said. “We felt like we had a good plan going into the game that he would be able to execute. He didn’t play as well as he would’ve liked. I’m sure he’ll tell you that. The ball kind of sailed on him a few different times. But I don’t think it was a lack of preparation.
“If I had to do it over again, I don’t think I’d do it any differently under the circumstances. I knew exactly why we made the decision. Felt very confident going into the ballgame with the decision. Didn’t work out for us this time.”
Frazier also said he didn’t consider pulling Freeman for Christian Ponder. He said Freeman’s missed throws – he overthrew receivers 16 times – were the result of faulty mechanics: “He did a great job of running our offense throughout the night, just some things from a technical standpoint that we’ll have to work on to get him better.”
The Vikings had only 30 rushing yards. Adrian Peterson had only 13 carries for 28 yards, sixth lowest of his career.
“We were trying to run it,” Frazier said. “We probably could have been more balanced than we were. A lot of those passes came in the two minutes at the end of the half, the two minutes in the end of the ball game. The last five or six minutes were really in essence two minutes for us. We were no huddle and we threw the ball a lot during that situation, during that time. We didn't go into it thinking we were going to be throwing it 53 times. We never go into a ballgame thinking we're going to have to throw it 53 times. It turned out that way, but we do want to be an offense that relies on Adrian Peterson.”
The players had yet to report to Winter Park, so Frazier had a limited injury update. Peterson (hamstring) and left tackle Matt Kalil (back) were able to play the entire game. Frazier said Peterson was not affected by his injury.
The Viking added cornerback Shaun Prater on Tuesday, a day after he was cut by the Eagles. Jacob Lacey, who was added last week but did not play on Monday night, was released. Prater, who played one game for the Eagles, was waived by Cincinnati before the regular season started.
Prater (5-10, 190) was a fifth round choice by the Bengals out of Iowa in 2012. He spent last season on injured reserve because of a knee injury.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil will play Monday night against the New York Giants after being listed as questionable because of back tightness.
Kalil missed two days of practice last week after experiencing some tightness in his back. He told reporters on Saturday that he had made progress and was optimistic he would be able to play.
The most notable inactive was Matt Cassel, who went from starting quarterback the previous two games to No. 3 on the depth chart this week, behind Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder.
The other inactives for the Vikings are cornerback A.J. Jefferson, wide receiver Rodney Smith, linebacker Gerald Hodges, offensive guard Jeff Baca, defensive tackle Chase Baker and defensive end Justin Trattou.
For the Giants, running back Brandon Jacobs is inactive because of a hamstring injury. The Giants' second-leading rusher, David Wilson, also is out because of a neck injury. That leaves veteran Peyton Hillis, who signed with the Giants this past week.
NEW YORK -- The Vikings and New York Giants are a combined 1-10, but Josh Freeman's debut brings an element of intrigue to this Monday Night Football matchup.
As I wrote about for Sunday, Freeman has endured a hectic few weeks as he attempts to resurrect his career.
The Vikings have condensed the playbook for Freeman so that he can learn the offense on the fly. Freeman already had a pretty good grasp of the pass concepts of this system from his college days, but the biggest challenge, he said, is learning new terminology.
“In football, you only have 11 guys and there’s only so much you can do," he said. "But just being able to go into the huddle with confidence and call the play, look over the line of scrimmage with confidence, know what I’m keying off of, understanding the fronts, protections, just kind of bringing it all in for one play. I think that this coaching staff obviously had a plan, a plan as far as, ‘Alright, this is what we’re going to do. We want you to just forget all the other stuff and focus on this exact thing,’ and it’s been really, really good."
Freeman said he's also leaned on his teammates for help. For instance, his wide receivers have let him know how they run certain routes.
"It’s different people stepping up," he said. "It’s the guys on the O-line, Sully (John Sullivan), the wide receivers, talking with Greg (Jennings), talking with Jerome (Simpson). Those guys have a lot of input and insight. Talking to Adrian (Peterson) about different run themes, and talking just with my teammates getting a feel for how they like to do things around here, different scenarios, guys’ strengths, weaknesses because, to be honest, with only one week of practice with guys, it’s hard to really develop the kind of chemistry you’d like to have midway through a season.
"To compensate for that, guys have kind of taken it on themselves to really spend time with me. Kyle Rudolph, a guy that’s an unbelievable tight end, talking with him about his route likes and dislikes and finding ways to get him the ball. Last but not least is the quarterback room. Matt (Cassel) and Christian (Ponder) are constantly giving me advice, telling me about nuances within the offense that could pay dividends in the long stretch."
Kickoff is set for 7:40 p.m. central time.
Josh Freeman spoke briefly with reporters in the locker room after being named the starting quarterback.
Signed last Sunday, Freeman said he's spent a lot of time at Winter Park getting up to speed on the Vikings offense. Asked if he feels like he will be adequately prepared Monday night against the New York Giants, Freeman said, "No question."
"I have a pretty good grasp of the offense," he said. "The main thing last week was just trying to work on some of the differences in terminology. But I’ve got three years of college and kind of a mixture the first few years in the NFL with this exact offense so it’s coming along pretty quickly. At the end of the day, football is football."
Freeman credited his coaches and teammates for making a potentially awkward situation a "smooth adjustment."
"It really hasn’t been that difficult," he said. "It’s been an opportunity to come in here and just focus on football."
Freeman endured a messy and public divorce from Tampa Bay. He was asked if he's approaching this new opportunity with a "chip on his shoulder" to prove that he can become an elite NFL quarterback.
"That’s a lot of the underlying questions that I've been getting from a lot of people," he said. "Do I have a chip on my shoulder? Sure I do. But I think it’s more deeply rooted than just the past six months, 12 months. It’s just wanting to go out and wanting to be great."
The Vikings fell to 1-4 with an uninspired and lifeless 35-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Mall of America Field. The Carolina Panthers also came into the game at 1-3, but they dominated the Vikings in every facet.
The Vikings performance was as bad as the score suggests. The offense failed to build on what it showed in a victory against Pittsburgh in London before the bye. Matt Cassel threw two interceptions on two badly overthrown passes.
His struggles likely clear the way for Josh Freeman to start against the New York Giants next week if he's comfortable enough with the offense.
The Vikings defense continued to struggle and had no answer for the Panthers running game or Cam Newton's passing. One play in particular summed up their performance.
On the opening possession of the second half, cornerback Josh Robinson was playing zone while rookie Xavier Rhodes played man, and the busted coverage resulted in a 79-yard touchdown catch by Brandon LaFell. That gave the Panthers a 21-3 lead and the rout was on.
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