Notebook: Defense does right by Frazier

The Vikings defense took an explosive Cowboys offense and limited their ability to make big plays. That should help Leslie Frazier's standing as teams around the league search for new head coaches.

Leslie Frazier improved his cache as a man who knows how to build a defensive game plan, meaning Vikings fans could be seeing the last stages of Frazier as the team's defensive coordinator.

Frazier interviewed for head-coaching jobs with the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks during the Vikings postseason bye week, and Buffalo's job remains open. With his Vikings defense holding a previously potent Cowboys defense to three points, their lowest output since 2003, Frazier's ticket to becoming an NFL head coach may have been punched.

Of course, in typical team-first Vikings style, he wasn't talking about that aspect of the win after Sunday's 34-3 showing.

"The only thing I'm really focused on right now is the NFC Championship Game," Frazier said after the game. "Enjoy this for a little bit and then on Monday we've got to get ready for that NFC Championship Game."

What Frazier did last week was coach up a defense that came in well-prepared for Dallas on Sunday.

Last week, Brad Childress talked about the explosiveness of the Cowboys offense, calling them as explosive a team as there is in the playoffs. But Frazier's defense effectively shut down Tony Romo and company. They didn't have a play go over 20 yards until the fourth quarter and only allowed three plays to go more than 15 yards throughout the course of the game, with the longest of those being a 22-yard pass to Jason Witten in the final period.

"That's a credit to Leslie Frazier and the whole defensive coaching staff," cornerback Benny Sapp said. "They came in this week and were real tough on us. They knew Dallas was a big-play team. We wanted to erase that off the field (Sunday), and that's what we did."

The Vikings limited the Cowboys to 3.8 yards per play and kept them under 100 yards rushing. It started with the defensive line, whether it was in rushing the passer or stopping the rush.

The Vikings had 11 tackles-for-loss and six sacks. Ray Edwards took advantage of his one-on-one matchups and registered three sacks and four tackles-for-loss, leading the Vikings in both categories.

"That's how we're built. Our defensive line carries our defense, whether it be run or pass, but particularly defending the pass," Frazier said. "But we led the league in sacks for a reason. We've got some guys that can really get after the quarterback and they did it (against Dallas)."

Pat Williams, the motivational leader of the Vikings run defense, continued to play the no-respect card that has worked so well for them.

"I always tell everyone we have the best defensive line in league, but they didn't want to listen. They just pumped the Dallas D-line up," Williams said.

Not anymore. Even Romo acknowledged the pressure.

"I think it was quite obvious that they did a great job applying pressure," he said. "I give them credit. They did a good job (Sunday). They played hard and they did some good things."


Safety Tyrell Johnson had been seeing his playing time decrease as rookie Jamarca Sanford got accustomed to the defense. In the season finale, Johnson made the start but the two safeties essentially split time.

That was the plan again on Sunday, but Johnson played more aggressively and therefore Sanford didn't see the field on defense.

"(Johnson) had a rhythm going in there and Jamarca was doing a good job on special teams. We didn't fool with it," Childress said.


Brett Favre's arrows weren't finding his usual third-down target. Rookie receiver Percy Harvin, who finished the season among the leaders in third-down receptions in the NFL, was targeted four times in the passing game but only caught one pass for one yard.

The Vikings ended up motioning Harvin into the backfield more often and he finished with three rushes for 23 yards.

"We are just playing to the player's skill set. Any time you can do something a little bit different that they haven't maybe seen," Childress said. "Possibly the defense is a little more tentative. It's also just being in attack mode. We practiced those plays, you use those plays. Like we've said before, you can displace him in a lot of places. He has the ability to be able to do that. I don't know if it's the most or not but we put him in a few different spots."


Brett Favre was the feature of two videos that surfaced Sunday. The first was a Fox Sports video that showed him the locker room after the game rallying the players around him for a version of "Pants on the Ground," a song that surfaced on last week's American Idol and has become a pop culture phenomenon. The video can be seen on YouTube right here.

The second video is an ESPN feature with Vikings players spoofing Favre as a pitch man for Wranglers jeans. That video is right here.


Sidney Rice said the time off that Childress granted during the Vikings' bye week helped.

"A lot of people were talking how bad of a decision it was for Coach to give us those days off, but it really helped. It helps out a great bit when you can sit back and relax and be able to be off your feet," Rice said.

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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