Notebook: Frazier discusses his close calls

The Vikings had a mixed bag of results on a number of close calls made by Leslie Frazier. They went for it on fourth down three times, twice eschewing field goals. What were the results and what did he have to say about them? Plus, Frazier became more involved defensively, the offense stuck with Adrian Peterson but not the no-huddle, and injuries are taking their toll.

Leslie Frazier was faced with numerous interesting decisions throughout the Vikings' 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday. Some worked, some didn't.

  • On the team's third drive and with the score tied 3-3, Frazier elected to go for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Dallas 16-yard line instead of kicking a field goal. Peterson was stuffed for no gain, turning the ball over on downs.

    "When we tried to go for it on fourth early in the game, I loved that," QB Christian Ponder said. "We didn't get the play, we didn't get the conversion, which stinks, so we lose points there. We could have done a better job scoring touchdowns. That's what we always talk about, scoring touchdowns in the red zone."

  • In the fourth quarter, trailing 20-17 with just under six minutes, Frazier elected to go for fourth-and-1 again. This time, Peterson rewarded the decision with a hard-charging 11-yard touchdown run to give the Vikings a 23-20 lead (Blair Walsh missed the extra point).

    "I think we were down three, chance to tie it. I felt like we needed to get a touchdown, not a field goal," Frazier said. "I felt that same way on the fourth-and-5. I kind of went against my instincts a little bit. But that was the mindset: We needed a touchdown. I didn't think a field goal there was enough."

  • The Vikings appeared to be in the driver's seat when CB A.J. Jefferson intercepted Tony Romo on the Cowboys' next possession, giving the Vikings the ball on the Dallas 41-yard line with 4:29 to play. Instead of trying to run time off the clock, Minnesota stayed aggressive, passing on first down. Ponder overthrew Greg Jennings.

    "There had been a lot of eight-man fronts on first down," Frazier said. "It looked like Greg had a step on the guy and we weren't able to connect. But that was the thinking, the chance to really go up."

  • Three plays later, after two rushes for a combined 5 yards, Frazier declined to have Blair Walsh attempt what would have been about a 54-yard field goal. Frazier didn't say if Walsh's missed extra point on the previous drive contributed to his decision, but he did say Walsh's recent hamstring issue with his plant leg was a consideration.

    "Just knowing where he is physically, that did play into my mindset," Frazier said. "He says he's there now, but from where we were in the game, decided not to do it."

    As it turned out, that would have only given the Vikings a six-point lead and the Cowboys' touchdown would have still given them a one-point win.

    But there was a possibility that, because of the field position at the 36-yard line, a fourth-down attempt with 5 yards to go was another option.

    "I thought about maybe going for it there but also knowing that field position … considered whether or not we kick a field goal and once again if you're not totally confident you can get it, the field position you're going to give the opponent (matters)," Frazier said. "So I decided to have to make them drive a little bit farther and try to kick a field goal to tie it and hopefully not a touchdown to win it."

    Ponder said he was "excited" about the possibility of going for it on fourth down there, but they simply tried to draw the Cowboys offsides and then took a delay-of-game penalty and punted to the 10-yard line, setting up Dallas' 90-yard winning drive.

    FRAZIER'S INCREASED PRESENCE

    Frazier's "presence" wasn't enough to turn around a trend of late defensive collapses for the Vikings.

    Frazier said he became involved in the defensive calls during Sunday's game and said early last week that he would make some changes in the team's third-down defense.

    "I just throughout the week felt I needed to make sure that the coaches felt my presence, and the players as well, from a defensive standpoint," Frazier said. "And just try to do whatever I could to help us play better than we had been playing. But we still fell short today."

    In general, the Vikings were a little better. They entered the game as the NFL's worst defense on third down, surrendering first downs on 51 percent of opponent's third-down opportunities. On Sunday, the defense allowed 36 percent of third downs to be converted, 2 percent better than the league average.

    But Frazier said he didn't take over the play-calling from defensive coordinator Alan Williams.

    "No, not taking over, but making suggestions, ‘Hey, think about this here. Think about this there,'" Frazier said.

    PETERSON'S BEST

    Adrian Peterson had carried only 36 times in the previous three games combined. In some instances that was because of the score dictating the Vikings pass more. At other times, they inexplicably got away from the strength of their offense.

    The opportunity presented itself to stick with Peterson Sunday and, for the most part, the Vikings did.

    "No doubt. It helps when our defense plays as well as it did throughout the game and our offense being able to convert some third downs to keep our offense on the field," Frazier said. "So all those things play into being able to give him the ball more so that in the fourth quarter the defense is fatigued because of the number of carries. It's a formula that we've had success with. We just haven't been able to play as well across the board to continue it."

    Peterson carried 25 times for 140 yards and a touchdown. The yardage tied a season high and the number of carries tied for the second-most on the season.

    "That was big for us. That's a big part of our offense is running the football," Ponder said. "Having Adrian run well this game was great. We keep expecting to improve on it and we needed it again this week."

    NO-HUDDLE HURRIED AWAY

    The Vikings found out against the Green Bay Packers that Ponder was operating better in the no-huddle offense, so they had plans to use it more often against the Dallas Cowboys, but after the first two series it all but disappeared.

    "I think a lot of guys like our no-huddle stuff. We're pretty good at it and it's a good tool to have for us," Ponder said. "I think we'll keep developing it and get better at it and keep using it."

    INJURIES TAKING TOLL

    The Vikings entered the game with all but two of their inactive players out because of injury (or in Matt Asiata's case, a personal matter dealing with the death of his father).

    CB Chris Cook, S Jamarca Sanford, DT Fred Evans and TE Rhett Ellison were all ruled out on Friday because of injuries. G Jeff Baca and QB Josh Freeman were healthy scratches.

    But injuries continued to take their toll against the Cowboys.

    RT Phil Loadholt suffered a concussion at the end of the first half and isn't expected to be ready for Thursday night's game against the Washington Redskins.

    "It would be very, very difficult for him to pass NFL protocol on a short week. I don't know very many guys that do. I don't know the stats on that," Frazier said.

    TE Kyle Rudolph suffered a foot injury that had him leaving the locker room in a walking boot with the assistance of crutches, making his availability for Thursday look doubtful.

    And CB Xavier Rhodes suffered a knee injury that took him out of the game for 15 snaps.

    NOTES

  • The Cowboys weren't at full strength either. Much of their deactive list was due to injury, too. WR Miles Austin, DE DeMarcus Ware, CB Morris Claiborne, LB Devonte Holloman and S J.J. Wilcox were all held out because of injuries.

  • After 57 straight point-after touchdowns made, Blair Walsh missed his first extra point, but it wasn't due to a bad snap or hold. Walsh simply pushed it right.
  • Prior to Sunday's win against the Vikings, Romo was 1-2 against the Vikings with five touchdowns, five interceptions, three fumbles and nine sacks.

  • Romo improved his record in November to 22-4. His .846 winning percentage in November is the best of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era.

  • Cordarrelle Patterson played 26 snaps, the highest number and percentage of snaps of his rookie season.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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