Jim Souhan: A big game arrives, and so has success for Vikings

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 30, 2012 - 8:58 AM

Sure, beating the Packers would be huge. But don't forget the strides that Leslie Frazier's team already has made.

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There were a lot of reasons coming into this season to believe Vikings coach Leslie Frazier’s job security was in doubt. Now, he’s looking at a contract extension.

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It's nice to have a big game in town again, even if that means watching politicians falling all over each other to be the biggest boosters in town, lighting up tunnels and bridges in purple. R.T. Rybak doing the Jared Allen calf-roping bit on Hennepin Avenue seemed a bit much.

The Packers will play at the Metrodome/Mall of America Field/Future Demolition Site Sunday in the biggest game for the Vikings franchise since their epic loss in the 2009 NFC title game in New Orleans, and the biggest game at the Dome since the Vikings whipped the Cowboys in the '09 division playoffs.

"I think the young guys who haven't experienced a game like this, they're going to get to see it firsthand and play some big-time football,'' Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We're obviously excited, the guys who have been there, and now we're getting back to it.''

It's a big game because a victory puts the Vikings in the playoffs and dents the Packers' aura of divisional invincibility, but in a lot of ways it's more dessert than main course. In a lot of ways, the Vikings already have reached their goals for the season.

Four months ago, the Wilfs didn't know whether Leslie Frazier could succeed as a head coach. Now Frazier is in line for a contract extension. While the Colts' duo of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians has helped revitalize their franchise, they've also won in a mediocre division and because the team tanked last season, while Frazier has had to slap a lot of mortar and super glue on his roster to win games. Frazier is as deserving as anyone of coach-of-the-year votes.

Four months ago, the Wilfs could have worried that Adrian Peterson would never be the same. Now they know he's not the same. He's better than he's ever been, and showing no signs of wearing down. He'll be their franchise back for years to come.

Four months ago, the Vikings offensive line was a work in progress. Now it's one of the main reasons for the team's turnaround, as John Sullivan has become one of the best centers in the game.

Four months ago, the Wilfs didn't know exactly what they had in Matt Kalil, the consolation prize for missing out on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Now they can pencil him in for about 10 Pro Bowl appearances.

Four months ago, the Vikings coordinators were unproven, and a threat to Frazier's job security. He had replaced Fred Pagac with the highly anonymous Alan Williams, and had invested great faith in Bill Musgrave's ability to salvage Christian Ponder and establish a power-running offense. Williams has coached a defense that stuffed San Francisco and Houston, and Musgrave and his assistants have found creative ways to open holes for Peterson while coaxing competent play down the stretch from Ponder.

Four months ago, the schedule offered a few easy victories but threatened to crush the team down the stretch. It was hard to find any analysts outside the organization who believed that this team was capable of more than six or seven victories, or of surviving December. They enter Sunday's game on a three-game winning streak, with their victory at Houston last Sunday providing their most impressive road victory since Brett Favre beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2009.

There is always another game, and there are always problems to solve. The Vikings roster is filled with unproven young players and near-the-end-of-the-line veterans, and while their patience with Ponder has been justified, they can't feel confident that he'll become the franchise quarterback they hoped he would be.

Whatever problems remain, a victory would further justify Frazier's approach. Instead of treating 2012 like the rebuilding season many of us thought it was, he has maintained faith that this team could make the playoffs, that it need not lower its expectations because of recent history.

In his own, quiet way, Frazier made a seemingly crazy prediction, promising that last year's 3-13 team could become competitive in one year.

In his own, quiet, way, he's made that prediction come true, regardless of what happens against the Packers.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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Buffalo 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 88 FINAL
Washington 101
Orlando 102 FINAL
Charlotte 94
Memphis 103 FINAL
Miami 95
Indiana 110 FINAL
Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
Atlanta 90 FINAL
Milwaukee 85
Philadelphia 71 FINAL
Utah 88
New York 129 FINAL
Sacramento 135
Minnesota 97 FINAL
Golden State 110
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Nashville 4
Anaheim 1 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 2
Chicago 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Edmonton 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 3
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
UAB 58 FINAL
North Carolina 89
IUPUI 55 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 77 FINAL
Georgia 86
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 55 FINAL
Ohio State 100
Presbyterian 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Brescia 42 FINAL
Western Ky 89
Tennessee St 46 FINAL
Tennessee 67
Kennesaw St 45 FINAL
Illinois 93
Colorado State 58 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
Portland 61 FINAL
San Diego 58
Wayland Baptist 63 FINAL
Utah State 75
Bristol University 59 FINAL
Weber State 109
Sacramento St 74 FINAL
Utah Valley U 49
Southern Utah 45 FINAL
UNLV 79
SD Christian 50 FINAL
San Diego St 72
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 64 FINAL
Houston 50
BYU 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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