Coach Leslie Frazier said there is precedent for the Vikings to win the final two games and have a big year next season.

Frazier recalled his first year on the Philadelphia coaching staff in 1999, serving as defensive backs coach. That season, the Eagles won only three of their first 14 games, but they ended the season by beating the Patriots in Week 15 and the Rams in Week 17 (they had a bye in Week 16). The Eagles then went 11-5 in 2000, beginning a run in which they became the dominant team in the NFC.

Coincidentally, if you look back at that 1999 Eagles season, they were in their first year under coach Andy Reid and opened the season with veteran Doug Pederson as their starting quarterback. Pederson had previously been Brett Favre's backup in Green Bay. By the end of the season, though, they were using first-round draft pick Donovan McNabb under center.

This year, the Vikings, in their first season under Frazier, had McNabb taking over at quarterback for Favre, only to wind up using first-round pick Christian Ponder by the end of the season.

Frazier also pointed to the Packers going 8-8 in 2006, their first year under coach Mike McCarthy. Green Bay jumped to 13-3 the following season, when the Packers advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

Frazier believes it is important to have momentum going into the next season, and that is why he believes a victory over the Bears to finish out the 2011 season is imperative.

The Vikings have not won a game in the NFC North and will be 0-6 in the division if they lose the finale.

"It's very important [to beat the Bears]," Frazier said. "It's the last game of our season, we're playing at home at Mall of America Field, and we'd like to get an NFC North win. So it's an extremely important game.

"The Bears are still a hard-nosed football team, they're very scrappy. It's going to be a battle for us to win."

Of course, a victory also would keep this Vikings team from tying the 1984 Vikings for the worst record in franchise history at 3-13. That season was the only one for coach Les Steckel, but that won't happen again this time, as owner Zygi Wilf has said Frazier will be back for 2012.

Looking back on the bad season, one that started with the Vikings blowing double-digit leads in each of their first three games, Frazier said: "It's been a tough year for all of our players, and our fans as well. We've got to work extremely hard this offseason to get things turned around. Eight of our games, we lost by seven points or less. So we're not as far away as our record says, but we've got to do some things this offseason to really improve."

Youngsters gain experience

Frazier said that the torn knee ligament that running back Adrian Peterson suffered last week is a big blow, but he is confident that backup Toby Gerhart will do a good job substituting for the superstar and will help the Vikings beat Chicago.

"Every time Gerhart has gotten in there, he's made big plays for us in the absence of Adrian," Frazier said of the 2010 second-round draft pick. "Last week against the Washington Redskins, he breaks a 67-yard run. So he's done well, he's really done a good job."

About the quarterback situation, while Frazier pointed out that Ponder is still the first-string quarterback, he also praised backup Joe Webb, saying the second-year player has done a good job any time he has been in a game. "So we'll have to have some discussions in the offseason on what's the best thing to do for Joe," Frazier said.

He added: "Ponder is our No. 1 quarterback, and we're looking forward to him playing well and hopefully leading us to bigger and brighter things in the future. The experience he got I believe will help him long term, just to continue to improve and develop. He's had a lot of opportunity to see different things over the course of the year, and it should help him."

It would be embarrassing to lose to the Bears, who have lost five consecutive games and scored only six offensive touchdowns, all since quarterback Jay Cutler got hurt.

Great interest in Timberwolves

You have heard the stories many times: People will go to Xcel Energy Center because it is a new arena and has so many attractions that Target Center doesn't have.

Well, things have turned around this year now that the Timberwolves have a veteran coach and added a real attraction in Ricky Rubio. Despite the age of their arena and the absence of many features, the Wolves have been selling out, while the Wild, struggling after a great start, is running ads in the newspapers to sell tickets. The team is no longer selling out like it did for many years.

What it shows is that you provide an attraction and people will come. Even though the Wolves are 0-3, they have fans really excited, and unlike many past seasons, they are going to be tough competition for the Wild.


• Twins President Dave St. Peter, in describing new outfielder Josh Willingham, noted that of his 29 homers last year, more than half came in Oakland, one of the more cavernous ballparks in baseball. “We’re very confident that Target Field’s fences are not going to hold him back,” St. Peter said.

• Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz was hired by Joe Salem as a Gophers offensive coach in 1982, a move he has said was one of the biggest breaks he got. He has had outstanding head coaching and assistant jobs since, having guided the Rams to a Super Bowl as head coach.

• ­Bad news for the Vikings in that Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to practice Friday and will start Sunday. He had missed two days of practice because of a knee injury. “Always good to have our main guy out there,” coach Lovie Smith said Friday, adding, “… All the guys want to finish strong. Brian is a big part of that.”

•’s Big Ten Blog paid tribute to football seniors who did a good job in 2011. The list included the Gophers’ Kim Royston, who “turned in a terrific season,” wrote Adam Rittenberg. He pointed out that Royston was third in the Big Ten with 123 tackles, 36 more than any other Gophers defender, adding that he “provided leadership for a unit that needed it.”
• Kevin Noreen, Minnesota high school basketball’s all-time leading scorer, is averaging 2.9 points and 2.6 rebounds for Bob Huggins-coached West Virginia (10-4). The 6-10 freshman from Minnesota Transitions signed with the Mountaineers in June 2010, getting his release from Boston College after the Eagles fired coach Al Skinner.

• Gophers recruits Philip Nelson of Mankato and Maxx Williams
of  Waconia
will play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Tuesday in Phoenix, as will Hopkins’ Andre McDonald, a Vanderbilt commitment.