Remember 2011? Particularly the first three weeks of 2011, when the Minnesota Vikings had leads of increasing size at halftime each week only to completely fall apart in the second half and lose? The 10-point lead at San Diego? The 17-point lead against Tampa Bay? The 20-point lead against Detroit?
Isn't it nice to have one that goes the other direction for once?
Like most of you out there, I figured that we were pretty hosed when Cecil Shorts pulled in that 39-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert in the game's last minute to give the Jacksonville Jaguars a 23-20 lead (after the successful two-point conversion). I thought that the Vikings had once again managed to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
And it didn't happen. And it was great. One of the greatest endings to a Vikings game in recent memory, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing it on NFL Rewind this week (because, really, if this wasn't the best game of the week, it was certainly one of the top four, NFL Network).
Let's talk a little more about it after the jump, shall we?
Say what you will about Leslie Frazier. . .about how he appears to be passive or doesn't appear particularly inspiring or doesn't appear to breathe much fire or what have you. That's how it appears from our perspective as fans. But for whatever we might think of him from our limited perspective, whatever that man does in the halls at Winter Park or in the locker room at the Metrodome or wherever else has made every single player on this roster feel as though they have to play their tails off for him on every single snap of every single game. And in the time that Leslie Frazier has been the head coach of this team, that's exactly what we've seen.
Leslie Frazier now has a record of 7-16 as an NFL head coach since taking over for Brad Childress in the midst of the crapstorm that was the 2010 season. Of those 16 losses, 10 of them have been by a touchdown or less. Why? Because regardless of the talent disparity or whatever else there might be between the Vikings and the teams they've played against, this team will fight you until the very end. Even in the games where this team has been blown out under Leslie Frazier, they've never really just folded up the tents and packed it in, even when they could have.
Last season, in many games the Minnesota Vikings were just good enough to get themselves beaten. This year, thanks to the growth of some players that were here last season and some of the new additions, maybe this team is just good enough to pull out some victories. Maybe this team is just too young to know that they're not supposed to be any good. Or maybe that's just the spirit that Leslie Frazier has instilled in this team.
Speaking of one of the young players that appears to be growing. . .how about Christian Ponder, huh? Sure, it wasn't the greatest quarterback performance in the history of the Minnesota Vikings, but the man went 20-for-27 for 270 yards on Sunday against a pretty good defense, and his only turnover came on a play where he tried to step up in the pocket and got stripped. During the off-season, Ponder said he wanted to complete 75% of his passes on first and second down. Did he make it? Well, here's a breakdown of his attempts.
First Down - 11/13 (84.6%), 155 yards (11.9 yards/attempt)
Second Down - 6/7 (85.7%), 63 yards (9 yards/attempt)
Third Down - 3/7 (42.9%), 52 yards (7.4 yards/attempt)
Combine the first and second down numbers, and you get 17/20 (85%) for 218 yards (10.9 yards/attempt). I don't know if it's sustainable, and obviously you'd like to see his third down passing numbers come up significantly (I'm not sure how the numbers compare to elite quarterbacks or anything), but it would be hard to convince me that Christian Ponder had anything less than a very good performance on Sunday afternoon. Yes, he didn't have any touchdowns, but there was a reason for that. . .and that reason wears #28.
How good is Adrian Peterson? Really? Most folks were predicting somewhere between 5 and 10 carries for Peterson coming in a backup role. But that just wouldn't be Adrian Peterson. He carried the ball 17 times for 84 yards (passing Robert Smith for the distinction of the Vikings' all-time leading rusher in the process) and the Vikings' two touchdowns on the afternoon. This just 260 days removed from pretty much completely destroying his knee against the Washington Redskins. He's simply not human. He can't be. And the scary thing is that he's likely only going to get better going forward.
The Vikings' 2012 draft class came out with a strong debut as well. Matt Kalil was solid in both the run and the pass game on Sunday, and Harrison Smith made a couple of big plays as well. Did Smith get beat a couple of times? Maybe he did. He also had an absolutely huge pass break-up on third-and-two for Jacksonville in overtime on what proved to be the Jaguars' second-to-last play. Josh Robinson threw in four tackles and looked pretty good in coverage as well.
And Blair Walsh. Man alive, Blair Walsh. In his first NFL game, the guy comes into the game with four seconds left on the clock and drills a field goal from 55 yards that looked like it would have been good from 65, at least. He followed that up by calmly hitting a 38-yarder in overtime like he was a ten-year NFL vet. He was very solid on kickoffs, too, with half of his kickoffs going for touchbacks, and of the three that were returned, the best field position the Jaguars started with was their own 23-yard line.
I don't know how many games the Minnesota Vikings will win this year. But, hey, it's always a lot more fun to talk about a Vikings win than a Vikings loss (particularly one as thrilling as this one was), and Mondays always seem to be better after a Vikings victory. So, enjoy this one, folks. We'll start taking a look at our next opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, in the next day or so.