The smile on Leslie Frazier’s face was enormous this afternoon, Sunday’s improbable 26-23 overtime win over Jacksonville drastically changing the mood and the line of questioning at Winter Park. Perhaps most uplifting to Frazier was the late heroics delivered by second-year quarterback Christian Ponder, whose two-play, 32-yard, 10-second march at the end of regulation set up rookie kicker Blair Walsh for a game-tying 55-yard field goal.
Ponder, don’t forget, took over the huddle with only 14 seconds left on the clock. The Vikings were down 23-20, starting at their own 31 and trying not to let the dreary mood inside the Metrodome bring them down prematurely after the defense had surrendered a 39-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left.
So Ponder calmly united the offense, hit Devin Aromashodu for 26 yards to the Jacksonville 43 and then called timeout. With seven seconds left, he hit tight end Kyle Rudolph with a simple 6-yard completion and the stage was Walsh’s – with the Mall of America Field crowd suddenly rejuvenated.
“The poise that was needed in that sequence and the leadership that was needed, that’s good stuff,” Frazier said this afternoon. “That’s what this league is made of -- when you have a quarterback who can take you down in the last 2 minutes of a game and put you in a position to win the game. He did something we hadn’t seen very much of.”
In other highlights from Frazier's 18-minute session with the media this afternoon:
- Frazier said he was disappointed with the results of the Vikings' second-to-last drive of regulation. With a 20-15 lead, the Vikings took over with 1:51 to play at their own 14 yard line. With Jacksonville only having two timeouts left, the Vikings' hope was to run the clock out, or, in the worst case scenario, punt the ball away with less than a minute left. But after Adrian Peterson was stopped for a 1-yard gain on the first play of the series, receiver Michael Jenkins drew a costly penalty for an illegal block on Peterson's subsequent 1-yard run. That stopped the clock without Jacksonville needing to use its final timeout. The Jaguars eventually got the ball with 1:18 left and drove 76 yards for a go-ahead score. Said Frazier of Jenkins' penalty: "For us to have a penalty just discourages everything that you are trying to get done. You stopped the clock, you give them a chance to conserve a time out. It’s not what you want. We got to be smarter in that situation. Good teams, you don’t allow that to happen."
- After Peterson received 18 touches Sunday, Frazier asserted that the Vikings would still have to be "somewhat cautious" in monitoring the running back's workload going forward. Yet, even after having major knee surgery on Dec. 30, Peterson sure looked sharp in his return against Jacksonville. Throughout Sunday's game, running backs coach James Saxon was in constant communication with Peterson to make sure the knee wasn't bothering him in any way and keeping a pulse on Peterson's fatigue.
- Frazier said rookie left tackle Matt Kalil was "rock solid" in his NFL regular season debut. The Vikings' other rookie starter, safety Harrison Smith, continued to draw praise for his consistency in routinely understanding his alignment and assignment. Said Frazier: "When I looked at the tape, he brought a smile to my face a few different times because he was where he needed to be.That’s important with a guy that plays in the secondary -- being where you’re supposed to be, where other guys can trust that you’re going to carry out your assignment. He was there."
- Here was Frazier on whether Sunday's win could be a bit of fool's gold, the Vikings getting a positive result without playing very well: "I just know in our league, you just have to find ways to win, even if you don’t play your best game. Even the best teams I’ve been on, they find a way.."
- The Vikings did not experience a single notable injury in Sunday's win. Three players missed the game with ankle sprains: receiver Jarius Wright, safety Andrew Sendejo and linebacker Marvin Mitchell.