It was a good week for Leslie Frazier and a not-so-good week for the perception that the NFL game has moved past the former Vikings head coach.
Last Monday, Bills coach Sean McDermott returned the defensive play-calling duties to Frazier, his defensive coordinator. Six days later, McDermott handed Frazier a game ball after Buffalo’s defense manhandled the Vikings in the NFL’s biggest upset in the past 23 years.
“If you look at where we were a week ago, 0-2 and coming in here to play a team that played in the NFC Championship Game, the stakes don’t get much higher,” Frazier said after the 27-6 victory at U.S. Bank Stadium. “It’s not about me. It’s a big day for our team. Big.”
The Vikings were 16½-point favorites. Until Sunday, teams favored by 16 or more were 47-0 since 1995.
“You like that!” cornerback Tre’Davious White screamed to reporters, mocking the phrase now-Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins became famous for after leading the Redskins to a come-from-behind victory three years ago.
Frazier said he didn’t like having his play-calling duties stripped from him while the Bills trailed the visiting Chargers 28-6 at halftime last week.
“But I told Sean that I’ve been in his seat before so I understood,” said Frazier, who coached the Vikings from midway through the 2010 season through 2013. “But, yeah, you don’t like it when stuff like that happens to you. You want to battle through it.
“But sometimes, in our profession, it requires patience. To Sean’s credit, we sat down this past week and worked some things out and I’m back doing what they hired me to do for them.”
As Vikings head coach, Frazier went 21-33-1, including 0-1 in the playoffs. He was fired after going 5-10-1 with the league’s worst-ranked defense in 2013.
Mike Zimmer replaced him, won two division titles and rebuilt the defense into the league’s top-ranked unit a year ago. But Sunday was Frazier’s day.
In Frazier’s first regular-season game in Minnesota since being fired, his defense confused and physically beat the Vikings offense.
Four different players had four sacks. Three takeaways led to 10 first-quarter points. The Vikings didn’t cross midfield until the third quarter. They finished with 14 yards rushing.
With 56 seconds left in the first half, the Bills led 27-0. The Vikings had one first down and 26 yards.
Not bad for a team that had been outscored 78-23 and had a starting cornerback, Vontae Davis, retire at halftime of Week 2.
“Absolutely no one thought we were going to come in here and play the way we did,” said offensive tackle Dion Dawkins. “But we did.”
Frazier said the Bills coaching staff didn’t use the point spread as motivation. It probably didn’t have to.
“Who are these people making those [point spreads] and wins and losses?” safety Jordan Poyer said. “Really, who are they? We don’t care.”
The highlight of Frazier’s play-calling came on the Vikings’ second possession of the game. The first possession ended with a strip sack that led to a Buffalo touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
Frazier overloaded the left side of the Vikings’ offensive line and called for a stunt with end Jerry Hughes and linebacker Matt Milano.
“It was a little stunt we worked on that we thought would come open for us,” Frazier said. “Just trying to confuse [left tackle Riley Reiff] and the running back [Latavius Murray], and it worked.
“You never know. You practice these things and sometimes they never work in the game. [Sunday], they did.”
Milano crossed inside. Hughes, who punished Reiff throughout the day, went outside. Hughes got the strip. Milano got the recovery. And the Bills got a 17-0 lead two plays later.
“I have a lot of great memories in Minnesota,” Frazier said. “Remember beating the Packers to make the playoffs, and Adrian [Peterson] goes over 2,000 yards? Those are the great memories I have.”
Unfortunately for his old team, Les sure as heck created another great memory on Sunday.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org