There's a strong conviction in the Twin Cities media and with the sporting public that Leslie Frazier will be fired as the Vikings coach at the end of this season. I'm not arguing with that assumption, but the bill of charges against Frazier cannot include the claim that his players have quit on him.
Tracy Claeys, the Gophers' interim coach, put it eloquently after the upset of Nebraska when he said his players had "fought their balls off.'' What made this so colorful was that Claeys blurted this praise in the immediate on-field interview for ESPN's telecast.
Claeys' FTBO certainly was an upgrade on Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's BHTO (Battled His Tail Off) that has been a trademark of his postgame interviews in good times and in bad.
And the FTBO tribute could be properly used today by Frazier toward his athletes, if he was the type of guy to blurt such candid thoughts in public.
The Vikings took the 41-20 whipping in Seattle on Nov. 17 to fall to 2-8. It couldn't have been heartening to make the flight back from the West Coast and then find out the plan was to continue to go with Christian Ponder at quarterback -- even after his dreadful interceptions led to a benching vs. the Seahawks.
The Vikings responded by showing up in Lambeau Field with numerous second-teamers, battling through five quarters and leaving with a 26-26 tie.
Yes, it was with a couple quarterback imposters -- Scott Tolzein and Matt Flynn -- as alternatives to the great Aaron Rodgers for the Packers. Yes, they managed to let a 23-7 lead early in the fourth quarter get away. Yes, they settled for field goals at the end of drives that looked like as if game-clinching touchdowns were written all over them.
This wasn't where the FTBO came in. It was most evident in turning away the Packers at the goal line early in overtime. It was in not conceding over a full 75 minutes that there nothing left to play for this flop of a season.
Same thing on Sunday, when the desperate Chicago Bears arrived in the Metrodome.
Much went wrong in the third quarter. Ashton Jeffery beat Chris Cook for 80 yards to put the Bears ahead 13-7 in the first minute of the half. Jeffery then made a catch for the ages over Cook for a 46-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 20-10 lead with 5:15 left in the third.
Cook was ejected on an asinine overreaction by the official on the scene. Cook made light contact in protesting the call to award the touchdown, rather than to get Jeffery for offensive pass interference.
The official was ecstatic to fire dramatically his flag.
What a chump.
Bashing of Cook is in vogue these days -- for good reason -- but this was simply more of the same from the flag-happy morons in referee Carl Cheffers' crew.
The announcers, Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick, paid tribute to the fine work of Cheffers and company late in regulation. Yeah, boys, they were wonderful, if you like the cheapest collection of calls imaginable at important moments.
Ponder was close to the officials in haplessness before leaving with a concussion at the end of the first half. Matt Cassel, easily the best of three quarterbacks to see the field for the Vikings this season, came in.
Cassel managed to mashal a 89-yard drive to cut the lead to 20-17 midway in the fourth quarter.
The Bears had a chance to put it away when they were second-and-1 at Vikings' 41 with under 4 minutes left. They ran Matt Forte up the gut for nothing. They did the same on third down, rather than a quick throw to Brandon Marshall or Jeffery.
And then rookie NFL head coach Marc Trestman ordered a punt.
Forget his decision in overtime to not try to move Robbie Gould closer than 47 yards for a winning field goal. Not using all four downs to get that one yard at the Vikings' 41 was Trestman's No. 1 blunder of an afternoon when he had several.
I'm guessing that favorable impression Trestman offered to Bears' fans with a 3-0 start has waned considerably through what's now six losses in the past nine games.
Frazier was much sharper in the final minutes than Trestman. As the boys in the TV booth debated what he should do on fourth-and-11 from their 8, with 1:55 (and two timeouts) left, Frazier made the only feasible decision: Go for it.
Cassel hit Jerome Simpson for 20 yards, and the Vikings went from there to a game-tying field goal.
Frazier's bunch FTBOd to get a 20-20 tie, and did so through 13:17 of more overtime, before Walsh won it, 23-20, with a 34-yard field goal.
The Vikings are 1-0-1 after 148 minutes and 17 seconds of football against their two largest rivals, the Packers and the Bears, these past two Sundays.
A coherent case probably can be made for Frazier to be fired. Part of it can't be that his athletes have quit. As the stretch run of a lost season arrived, the bulk of Frazier's players have showed a willingness to fight their privates off.
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