So this early afternoon, I was checking out the Twitter and saw this.
And I was filled with admiration, hope... and dismay. In particular, over the "tough loss that’s on my shoulders" part. Let me say something again here…
Now first off, as an emerging team leader, and as a rookie quarterback, that’s exactly what I do want to hear. You’re off to a bad start if you start blaming others and spreading things around. It’s the right move to take responsibility, point all five fingers back at yourself, and focus on what you could have done differently, done better, to have changed the outcome of what was, indeed, a very tough loss.
That said… let me just say, as the voice of one Viking fan… kid, I truly hope you know that that’s not entirely true. You sir, put into the situation you were thrown into, were an absolute warrior.
Join me after the leap of faith as I continue with my emerging man-crush on Christian Ponder. Once again, no puns. Promise.
OK. Were Ponder’s stats record breaking? Nah. Did he lead in any single passer category this week? Nope. Did he, in fact, lead his team to an upset victory? No, he did not.
But by G-d am I happy with him, and with what he did, nonetheless. No Viking fan out there, deep down in the honest vault within the deepest, darkest parts of their soul, genuinely believed we were going to have a victory on Sunday. Oh, we wanted it. Oh did we want it. But we didn’t believe it would happen. But let’s break down a few other things we didn’t believe would happen, either: that we would lead at halftime, that we would fight them tooth and nail in a genuine, actual challenge, that we would lose the game within a single touchdown.
Did Ponder do that all by his lonesome? No. Jared Allen continued his streak- and took a Vikings record in doing so (no small feat considering our proud history with our D-line)- of bringing opposing quarterbacks to the turf. And in doing so he also helped enormously in forcing a Packers 3 and out. That Adrian Peterson fellow was… well, Adrian Peterson, and he had quite the game. And our receivers did their part too… sans Percy Harvin after a certain point in the game, no less. (Also sans Bernard Berrian. Seriously, keep him over on the sidelines so Donovan McNabb has a buddy to talk to. We genuinely are doing better with him NOT ON THE FIELD.)
But Christian Ponder also did a few things no rookie, in that situation, should have done. What situation? Oh, you know, a sub-par O-line already getting hit by the injury bug. Having a defense that might have Jared Allen, but also pretty much consisted at that time of a secondary where, I’m pretty sure, some of the guys in my flag football game were actually called up by the Vikings. Three active wide receivers come late third quarter. And what did Ponder do in that situation, that also just so happens to have coincided with his first NFL start?
He converted third downs… and long third downs. Again… and again… and again. Yes, he failed at a critical time at the end to do so, but that doesn’t erase how he was consistent beforehand, including one helluva scoring drive prior. He also decided to start the game by going "yeah, I’m a noodle-arm and can’t throw the ball deep… WATCH THIS!!!". And when Jenkins was ruled down just shy of the score, he went ahead and made it happen regardless. He scrambled quite a bit, getting himself a first down at one point. (OK, still, let’s work on that slide kid. We’re gonna need you.)
He also showed some brazen guts out there. No rookie quarterback in his first NFL start should throw on Charles Woodson. Did it end up biting him in the arse, twice? Yes. But did he quit throwing on him? No, not Ponder. And then he even made it happen from time to time. So let’s see… you’re a rookie quarterback in your first NFL start, you’ve got a Pro Bowl cornerback who’s, well, pretty damn good, he picks you twice… and you’ve STILL got the cahones to throw on him again.
So, Mr. Ponder… I’m glad that you’re willing to take the weight of the world (so to speak) on your shoulders, and that you’re willing to accept your role in a loss. I’m glad that as a leader, you’re going to take all the blame. And I’m glad that you are also willing to overlook your accomplishments… significant ones, no less, I say… and focus on your mistakes, to learn from them, to get better.
But by G-d, as a Viking fan I will not agree that the loss is entirely on your shoulders, and I just wanted to publicly state that.
Oh, and NFC North… consider this your notice. Yes, you’ve got us this season. But we’ve got our guy. By G-d do we finally have him. And he’s only going to get better. We’re not going to have a Pop Warner O-line forever. We’re not going to have a secondary that’s… well, our secondary as of right now forever.
The pieces are in place. And Christian Ponder is the man who will lead us to victory. That is what I saw on Sunday. SKOL Vikings, SKOL Ponder. Finally, things are looking up.