EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Leslie Frazier has one person on his coaching staff dedicated to watching replays and a couple of others who help out to make sure that he is notified when a call on the field has the potential to be overturned.
When that system broke down at a crucial moment during the Minnesota Vikings’ latest loss, it prompted Frazier to call for an examination of how the process works — or doesn’t — as the frustrations of this lost season continue to mount.
On third-and-goal in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Atlanta, the Vikings gave the ball to Percy Harvin. He was stopped near the line of scrimmage by the Falcons defense, which also stuffed Toby Gerhart on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to keep the Vikings from carving into a 10-point deficit.
Replays appeared to show Harvin getting the ball across the goal line on his second effort. Frazier said Monday that the coaches who are charged with monitoring replays never brought the possibility of a challenge to Frazier’s attention, a fact that appeared to give the usually reserved coach quite a bit of pause as the Vikings (2-9) prepare to enter the final portion of his first season on the job.
“We’ve got to review out communication based on that play alone,” Frazier said. “We’ve really got to review that going forward. Seeing the play and realizing that there was a chance to maybe get a challenge in there is something that we have to re-look at it how we’re communicating between myself and the guys upstairs.”
Harvin said after the game that he was lobbying for Frazier to challenge the call in what the receiver called a chaotic environment. The flag was never thrown and Gerhart went nowhere on the fourth-down play call from offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, preserving Atlanta’s lead and sending the Vikings to another loss.
Frazier did not identify by name the coaches responsible for helping with the replay reviews, and this one likely would have been a close call. Harvin’s initial forward progress was stopped on the play, but his knees never hit the turf and he lunged the ball across the goal line on his second effort.
“When our season is where it is and the way our season has gone, anytime you’re in a game like that, a close game, and we’ve been in a lot of close games this year, one play sometimes or one sequence can turn the game,” Frazier said. “We’ve seen that in our case a number of times when we don’t execute correctly from a coaching standpoint, just like our players. It will cost you. We’ve got to continue to work as a team and as a staff and get those situations correct.”
The latest coaching difficulties turned up the heat on Frazier and his staff as an impatient fan base looks for signs of improvement in what is shaping up as one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
“We’re certainly at a frustration level that is pretty out of sight right now,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “All you can do at this point at 2-9 is come in each week and try to improve, play better within the scheme and just make the plays that are there.”
Defensive coordinator Fred Pagac is leading a unit that is ranked 19th in the league and has struggled to force turnovers and deliver impact plays. Musgrave has been up and down with the 30th-ranked offense, helping rookie quarterback Christian Ponder get acclimated to the NFL but also calling some head-scratching plays in key situations that have stunted drives.
Frazier defended the run call on Sunday, saying it was the execution that was lacking.
“It’s an ongoing process as you evaluate what you’re doing offensively, defensively, special teams-wise based on the personnel that you have,” Frazier said. “You have to as a coach try to figure out a way to adjust to your personnel.”
The cold, hard reality is sinking in. This season is over and the focus has turned to the future, and players and coaches alike know that jobs are on the line going forward, starting with Sunday’s home game against Denver.
“In a lot of cases you’re playing for your job for next year and what you can bring to the team,” Greenway said. “In a lot of cases, if you’re a young guy and this is your opportunity, this is your chance to step up and shine and make some plays to give yourself a position on this team next year.”
Notes: The Vikings signed TE Mickey Shuler to the practice squad. Shuler was drafted a seventh-round draft choice in 2010 who was claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins that year. Shuler played in six games last year for the Dolphins but has not played in a game this season.
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