Sunday, September 29, 2013
Locker Room Buzz: Minnesota Vikings
By Ben Goessling
LONDON -- Observed in the locker room following the Minnesota Vikings' 34-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers:
Frazier relieved: The relief on typically even-keeled Vikings coach Leslie Frazier's face was obvious after Minnesota avoided its third last-minute collapse in as many weeks. "I think I'll always have a special place in my heart for Wembley Stadium, along with London," Frazier said. "This has been a great week for our football team. And then to finish it with a win, I'm just so proud of our football team. So thank you, London." Frazier said the noise at Wembley -- helped both by 83,518 fans and the stadium's thumping sound system -- felt at times like a Vikings home game in Minnesota, and as big a believer as the coach is in experiences like this to help a team grow closer, he was clearly riding the energy of finishing the week with a win. "There's a sense of relief, for sure," Frazier said. "We've had some tough losses. For whatever reason it didn't work out for us. So to come away with a win in the fashion that we did, that many miles from home, I'm just so proud of our coaches to get these guys prepared."
Smith baffled by penalty: Safety Harrison Smith was flagged for unnecessary roughness after he hit Steelers tight end Heath Miller with his helmet in the second quarter, but Smith said he wasn't sure where else he could have hit Miller, knowing the veteran missed all but one game last year because of a knee injury. "As a player, as a fan, I know that," Smith said. "I don't want to hit him in the knee. I want to hit him in a good area. I tried to keep my head out of it. I didn't launch. I don't really know what else to do. There was a play later where I hit him lower, and I didn't want to do it, but I had to. I'm trying to win the game. I don't really know what else to do in that situation." It appeared Miller lowered his head on the collision, which left Smith with little area to work. "They've told us, 'Even if they lower their head, and you make contact with the helmet, that's a fine.' But that's pretty unreasonable, in my opinion."
High on Wembley: The Vikings were bound to feel better about their London experience after leaving with a win, but players were gushing about their experience at the massive stadium before leaving it on Sunday night. "I thought it was going to be split, maybe some NFL fans that came kind of for the show," Smith said. "But it really felt like a home game out there. There was a great crowd interaction and getting loud on third down, getting excited for us. It was quite a sight out there."
Receivers running after the catch: Matt Cassel threw for 248 yards in his debut with the Vikings, but he was helped by his receivers' ability to gain yards after the catch; Jerome Simpson turned a pass over the middle into a 51-yard gain, and Greg Jennings' first touchdown came on a 5-yard throw the receiver took 65 more for a score. "That's probably the best play in football for the quarterback," Cassel said. "It makes your job a lot easier. We preach on that, being strong with the ball, run after the catch and they did a great job."