The Vikings took Monday to work through some of the issues that have plagued them in spotty performances the last few weeks.
"We wanted to go through some fundamentals today and some technique that we think we need to improve on," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "If we can improve on some of those things, we think we'll be a better team in the second half. We just kind of went to some of the fundamentals we do in certain areas. We tried to get that done today with a good Vikings vs. Vikings practice. Just hitting some of the basics of what we're doing."
For Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson and the rest of the receivers, that meant paying particular attention to the depth of their routes.
"We worked a lot of routes, just trying to get timing right and talk about it. That's the big key, that we've got to talk to each other and be on the same page," Simpson said.
Harvin said the depth of the routes was the most important focus for the receivers on Monday.
"If it's a 12-yard route, not cutting it short at 8 yards. That just throws off the timing of the quarterback, whether he has a three- or five-step drop," Harvin said. "The plays are there. We look at them on the film. Guys are open but we're not clicking at the same time."
That could be a contributing factor for quarterback Christian Ponder's struggles lately.
After starting the season with four straight games without an interception and having a passer rating of 94 or better in the first three, Ponder has thrown all seven of his interceptions in the last four games and hasn't approached the 94 rating that he hit in Week 3, much less the 100-plus he hit in the first two weeks.
On Thursday, Ponder completed 19 of 35 passes for 251 yards and a 74.8 rating, but much of the damage was done in the fourth quarter when the Buccaneers had the game in hand and protected against the deep pass, allowing shorter, time-consuming passes underneath.
Frazier admitted that Ponder needs to play better, but Monday was the first indication that the receivers are taking responsibility for the struggles in the passing game, too.
"Just the basic fundamentals – route-running, making sure we're getting our depth at routes, quarterbacks making sure they're looking on the right side of reads – just fundamentals from everybody down," Harvin said of Monday's focus. "It's been fundamentals that have been killing us."
Harvin characterized the differences as being "little tweaks," but also cautioned that "those little tweaks end up real big."
He also said penalties and turnovers are playing too big of a role and contributing to the derailing of the offense.
"That's one thing we wanted to come into the season being a smarter football team. That killed us last year," he said.
"We looked like little kids at some points last year with the penalties. That's one thing (where) we wanted to make it tough to beat us."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.