EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Leslie Frazier never set out to be the NFL's foremost spokesman on resilience. But in the past month, the Vikings coach has found himself hosting a weekly infomercial detailing how his team channels its mental toughness toward success.
On Sunday, after the Vikings' completed an improbable four-game winning streak - their longest since 2009 - to invade the NFC playoffs, Frazier couldn't stop gushing about his team's ability to steer around misfortune without flinching.
Then, on Monday, on the final day of 2012, Frazier again commended his team's leadership and the resolve players showed all throughout a wild Sunday afternoon in which the Vikings were hit with at least a half-dozen opportunities to fold.
Instead, at every sign of trouble, they rose up and found ways to deliver a magical 37-34 victory over Green Bay.
Said Frazier: “That's a testament to the character of the players - not looking over and saying, ‘Man, why is so-and-so not doing his job?' or ‘Why didn't that happen?' Instead, we were just focusing on the next play or the next series, and going out there and making a play.”
Take, for example, Adrian Peterson's near-fumble midway through the third quarter, the ball squirting loose as he hit the ground after a 2-yard loss.
Luckily, Peterson's turnover was overturned by replay review. But a taunting penalty against right tackle Phil Loadholt pushed the Vikings into a second-and-27 predicament at the Green Bay 35.
Inescapable, right? Cut your losses and play for a field goal? Not when you have Peterson, who delivered on the next snap, bouncing a run outside for a breathtaking 28-yard gain.
If there was a play that aptly symbolized the 2012 season, that might have been it.
“There aren't a lot of teams what would even think you're going to get back to the line of scrimmage in that situation,” Frazier said. “There we are looking at first-and-(goal).”
That was far from the only sequence Sunday where the Vikings smoothly dodged disaster like James Bond.
There was also the charmed 17-yard reception by rookie Jarius Wright late in the first half. That came on a Christian Ponder throw better suited for a schoolyard game of “500.” Packers safety Morgan Burnett blitzed and hit Ponder as he threw. Green Bay's A.J. Hawk and Casey Hayward appeared to have first dibs on an interception. Instead, after a collision, the ball spurted to Wright.
In the third quarter, a controversial touchdown by James Jones pulled Green Bay within 27-24. The Vikings could have felt wronged having Jones' fumble overturned by replay. And they might have grown despondent by having that review allowed in the first place after Packers coach Mike McCarthy mistakenly launched his challenge flag.
That emotional swing might have flustered a mentally fragile team.
After all, the Vikings punted on their next possession and the Packers then tied the score at 27 with a field goal.
But the Vikings quickly answered with their longest pass of the season - 65 yards from Ponder to Wright, propelling a 79-yard touchdown drive.