Quarterback Brett Favre handed the ball off 33 times during the Vikings’ 17-13 win over the Washington Redskins, but his best exchange will never show up in the statistics.
After Favre had kneeled down for the final time Sunday and time ran out, he found interim head coach Leslie Frazier and handed him the game ball. It was Frazier’s first game as an NFL head coach and the Vikings’ first win on the road since Nov. 1, 2009.
In typical low-key Leslie Frazier fashion, the mild-mannered Tony Dungy protégé deflected the praise and celebrated the win by giving a game ball to Zygi Wilf and his ownership family six days after Wilf made the decision to fire Brad Childress and promote Frazier.
“I wanted to, and I did, present one to our ownership just because of what they’ve gone through with some of the decisions they’ve had to make over the course of this week,” Frazier said. “Also, we’re going to make sure that every member of our team gets one as well because this was a tremendous team win and hopefully the start of some great things to come.
“I told our ownership I’ve had my share of game balls. Our players, they deserve this game ball, along with our ownership.”
Up until Sunday, things hadn’t been so great for the Vikings. They were 3-7 and all but eliminated from playoff contention and Frazier was looking to keep a veteran-laden team focused on the Redskins despite a season that started with Super Bowl aspirations swirling down the drain.
Frazier has been to the Super Bowl as a player – his career was essentially finished when blew out his knee in the Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl XX win – and as an assistant coach in Super Bowl XLI under Tony Dungy in Indianapolis. But, despite a short stint as head coach of an upstart football program at Trinity College from 1988-96, Frazier had never been an NFL head coach. Not surprisingly, he wasn’t fazed by the experience Sunday.
“I think because I’ve actually done it before, even though it was on a smaller level, it wasn’t as intimidating as it might have been if I had never been a head coach,” he said. “So I kind of had an idea what to expect. And then I just had to trust our coaches to do what we talked about all throughout the week, and they did.”
Favre also did what he was supposed to do. All week long, Frazier had preached focusing on the basics – eliminating turnovers and costly penalties and winning at the line of scrimmage. After throwing 17 interceptions in the first 10 games, Favre didn’t throw one Sunday and the Vikings didn’t fumble the ball either. It was the first time all season the Vikings didn’t have a turnover.
Despite that, Favre said something with which a humble Frazier would likely concur.
“I don’t know if once the first kickoff was underway that guys really thought much about (winning for Frazier),” Favre said. “I know for me, my focus, regardless of who the coach is, my focus has to be what I have to do, what is expected of me. As you gain experience and years, you can’t worry about what’s going on with the coaches.”
That’s a similar sentiment Vikings players had after getting a win against the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 7 that may have extended Childress’ job for two more weeks. Following that victory, players insisted they won for themselves, not to save Childress’ job.
But clearly there are differences between an easy-going Frazier and Childress, who had run-ins with Percy Harvin in a practice earlier this month and who released Randy Moss without first telling ownership and management.
Frazier’s message in his first week at the helm was simple: concentrate on the basics and only focus on the Redskins game.
“(Frazier) spoke his peace and kind of left it at that. It wasn’t overkill. It was right to the point,” Favre said. “He didn’t want to make it about him, and that’s just his demeanor anyway. I don’t mean this negative or positive, but I don’t think guys said let’s win one for Leslie.”
Frazier spent Saturday night focusing on the game-management aspects of being a head coach and mostly let his assistants deal with the Xs and Os of the game. His toughest decision, he said, was deciding on the right call when the Vikings were looking to ice the game on third-and-8 by picking up one last first down. They got it in the most untraditional of ways – a 10-yard Brett Favre run that Frazier said made him proud and left Favre poking fun at himself.
To no one’s surprise, Frazier said he didn’t have trouble sleeping Saturday night and said he would likely give Childress a call Sunday night.
After a 3-7 start to the season, Frazier found a way to guide the Vikings to their first road win in their last 10 tries. It was deserving of the game ball that Favre ran over to him.
“I just said congratulations,” Favre said. “Handed him the ball and said, ‘Hopefully this is one of many to come.’”
PETERSON, EDWARDS TO HAVE AN MRI MONDAY
Although Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wrote on his Twitter page after the game that his ankle is OK, he will be evaluated on Monday.
“We’ll know a little bit more about Adrian (Monday) after they do whatever examinations that they have to,” Frazier said.
Peterson, who exceeded the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the fourth straight season, was hurt with 10 minutes left in the first half when Washington linebacker Lorenzo Alexander landed on Peterson’s ankle and foot as he made a tackle. Peterson’s return to the game was initially listed as probable, but he never did make it back on the field.
“After checking it out, they just felt like it would be too risky,” said Frazier, who said the decision to keep Peterson out of the game had nothing to do with rookie Toby Gerhart’s success. “… If A.P. could have gone, he would have been out there, I promise you.”
Starting defensive end Ray Edwards also left the game on after the second-to-last play of the first half. He also had an injury to his right ankle and, like Peterson, he didn’t return either. Frazier said Edwards would be evaluated on Monday as well.
Quarterback Brett Favre was also playing with an illness that he told ESPN was pneumonia, but asked if that’s what it was at his post-game press conference Favre said he didn’t know.
“It’s in my chest and my head. As the game progressed, based on the course of the week, I’d keep losing my voice,” Favre said.
He said he tried different medications.
The Vikings were also without cornerback Chris Cook (knee) and wide receiver Bernard Berrian (groin).
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