EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Leslie Frazier has seen his share of adversity in three-plus seasons as coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
From roof collapses to double-digit losses to devastating injuries, one of Frazier’s biggest accomplishments in his relatively short tenure has been his ability to hold the team together.
Despite all the drama, the Vikings have managed to avoid the in-fighting, second-guessing and pitfalls that often come with it all. But after the team’s fourth straight loss, a last-minute defeat at Dallas on Sunday, the facade is starting to crack. Several players, including defensive leaders Kevin Williams and Brian Robison, questioned the play-calling of defensive coordinator Alan Williams and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. That prompted Frazier to address the team on Monday afternoon to try to keep everyone on the same page.
“I appreciate the communication. I understand the frustration,” Frazier said. “We were all frustrated at the end of that ballgame yesterday. But there are so many positive things that occurred prior to that two-minute drive. But we’ll definitely talk through that situation as a team later this afternoon and just where we are and what we have to do to move forward.”
The Vikings led 23-20 with 4:30 to play in the game when cornerback A.J. Jefferson picked off Tony Romo, giving the Vikings the ball at the Dallas 41. Rather than hand the ball to Adrian Peterson to get the clock moving, Musgrave called for a pass play. Christian Ponder couldn’t connect with Greg Jennings, stopping the clock and putting the offense in a difficult position.
Two plays later, the Vikings punted and Romo took over.
The Vikings had success putting pressure on Romo with a four-man rush earlier in the game. But on the final drive, Alan Williams employed a more conservative, prevent defense that rushed only three and dropped eight into coverage to try to make it more difficult for the Cowboys to hit a big play in the passing game.
With all the time in the world to throw, Romo went 7 for 9 for 90 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown to Dwayne Harris with 35 seconds to play that rallied Dallas to the win.
“We have to play what’s called, and I think we could have done something better,” Kevin Williams said. “We like to get pressure on the passer. Us big guys like to push the pocket and get the ball out, and we were doing it all day, and then we just started dropping guys on the last drive. On the line, from that standpoint, it’s kind of terrible when you are trying to stop them. I know they were going empty, running through it quick and all, but if we make ’em hold it for a second, we can hopefully get there.”
It was the sharpest public criticism to date from a group that had made several cryptic remarks earlier in the season after last-minute losses to Chicago and Cleveland.
“I don’t take back anything I said yesterday,” said Robison, who was critical of the decision to rush only three on the final drive. “I’m probably going to get griped at for it. In my honest opinion, I don’t think I said anything out of line. I don’t think I necessarily threw anyone under the bus. I didn’t say anything I shouldn’t have said.
“That’s the thing we’ve always prided ourselves on, holding each other accountable. I want to win ballgames just as much as the next guy. And I believe everyone in this locker room wants to win ballgames. In order to get that done, we’ve got to all be in this together to get it done.”
Frazier has always been an even-keeled coach and has tried to give the players a big say in what goes on both on the field and off in Minnesota. But he did make it known on Monday that he would talk to the team about keeping any concerns with the coaching staff in-house.
“I respect their opinions and I know how competitive they are and how much they want to win,” he said. “I like for them to talk to their coaches myself about whatever concerns they may have and try to get those worked out. But I do understand their frustration and I respect their opinions.”
To make matters worse, the injuries are piling up with the losses. Tight end Kyle Rudolph will miss at least a month with broken left foot, while cornerback Xavier Rhodes (leg), defensive tackles Letroy Guion (shoulder) and Fred Evans (knee), guard Charlie Johnson (elbow) and tackle Phil Loadholt (concussion), all only two more days ahead to get ready to play on Thursday against Washington.
“We need to get some wins under our belt,” Frazier said. “The frustration grows with each loss with everyone involved. That’s human nature. We need to put some wins together starting this Thursday night.”
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