The Vikings' improbable 26-23 overtime victory over Jacksonville on Sunday drastically altered the atmosphere at Winter Park on Monday. Perhaps most uplifting to coach Leslie Frazier were the late heroics delivered by quarterback Christian Ponder, whose two-play, 32-yard, 10-second march at the end of regulation set up rookie Blair Walsh for a tying 55-yard field goal.
Ponder, don't forget, took over with only 14 seconds left. After the defense surrendered a 39-yard touchdown pass, the Vikings were down 23-20, starting at their own 31. Ponder united the offense, hit Devin Aromashodu for 26 yards 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.
"The poise that was needed in that sequence and the leadership that was needed, that's good stuff," Frazier said. "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."
Added Ponder: "Honestly I don't know if I would have been able to do it [last season]. I'm so much more comfortable. I truly believe we can overcome anything, and if we execute the right way that we can make plays when we need to."
Playing through pain
Cornerback Antoine Winfield helped stabilize a young secondary Sunday just four days after his younger brother, Anthony Travis, was murdered in Akron, Ohio.
Winfield did not practice Thursday, the day after learning of his brother's death. But he returned to Winter Park on Friday and made his 159th career start against the Jaguars. Winfield was credited with four tackles.
Frazier called Winfield a "very courageous young man, a very strong young man."
"To experience the loss that he experienced this week and to come to work, to work as hard as he did and then to play in the ballgame and play as well as he did, I don't know that I could have done that," Frazier said. "I don't know many people that could have done that."
No arrests have been made in the murder of Travis, 30. Police said he was shot after an apparent late-night street fight.
Good luck, rookie
As Walsh ran onto the field for his 55-yard attempt, Adrian Peterson slapped him on the helmet.
"He kind of turned it actually," Walsh said. "I was laughing when I was running on the field because I couldn't believe he just did that. Most people don't even want to touch the kicker or talk to him or anything. Christian just gave me a little low high-five as I was walking by, and [Peterson] went and slapped my helmet. I don't think he knows how strong he is."
Walsh said the slap "broke my concentration a little bit. I was like, 'Wow, that was ridiculous. I'm just going to go hit this kick.' "
Walsh didn't retrieve the football from either the tying or winning field goals. But he did receive a unique memento for his heroics: owner Zygi Wilf's tie.
Apparently, Wilf does this occasionally, if the moment is right. And what better moment than a rookie showing both a big leg and cool nerves in his first game?
"Literally off his neck and he threw it at me," Walsh said. "I was like, 'All right.' It's a nice tie. I couldn't even read whatever the brand was, that's usually a good sign. I didn't want to touch it, or smell it or anything like that. I just sort of put it in the locker."
The Vikings didn't experience a notable injury Sunday. Three players missed the game because of ankle sprains: receiver Jarius Wright, safety Andrew Sendejo and linebacker Marvin Mitchell.