This year was supposed to be all about development for the Vikings. AD was coming off major knee surgery and not supposed to be his normal dominant self for several month, if not the next season. The Offensive line was a work in progress along with the Defensive front. Our draft picks were going to grow and mature, in time, into productive players. Our WRs and back-up QBs were supposed to be just good enough for a bottom tier, rebuilding team. Our kicker was an unknown but most of all, this was supposed to be the year that Ponder made major strides since he came into the preseason as the starting QB and the heralded QBotF.
Yet, as we are all aware of, it didn't exactly go as scripted but in a good way for once in Viking history except for one major flaw. Matt Kalil is every bit the player he was projected to be and Harrison Smith is possibly better than expected. Josh Robinson started off the year playing much better than a 3rd round pick. Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond appear to be developing into actual NFL safeties. AD has confirmed all suspicions of his slightly inhuman nature by coming back by all accounts better than before and is blowing away any other RB in the league despite facing 8-10 man boxes. Everything was falling into place for the Vikings to be actual contenders for a playoff spot except for that one fatal flaw: Christian Ponder.
Christian Ponder started off the year performing as hoped. In the first 3 games he made smart choices and his the open WR or TE, taking what the defense was going to give him while teams still respected the fact AD was on the field. Then he started to slide a little until week 7 came along and the wheels started to fall off.
AD started to display his dominance in week 7 and began his current streak of 100+ yard games but Ponder has proven unable to take advantage of it. Does some blame lie with the OC and lack of talent in the WRs' corps? Yes and no. Does Musgrave 'outsmart' himself? Yes. He seems very intent on taking the ball out of AD's hands when he is redhot and his WRs are streaky when catching passes. That, however, does not impact Ponder's execution of the play.
Below are a series of stats that highlight Ponder's struggles overall and, more specifically, 3rd down.
|Ari - Wk 7||58||1||153||1|
|TB - Wk 8||251||1||123||1|
|Sea - Wk 9||63||0||182||2|
|Det - Wk 10||221||2||171||1|
|Chi - Wk 12||159||1||108||0|
|GB - Wk 13||119||1||210||1|
Over the past six games Ponder has been outgained and outperformed by Peterson at nearly every turn. An average QB would normally see their stat line increase when their RB puts out numbers like these.
One reason for Ponder's lack of production has been the absence of Percy Harvin but the stats don't support that either.
Ponder actually saw one of his most diverse games when Harvin wasn't available against Detroit. He hit 10 different receivers and completed 75% of his passes but after that game continued his slide back down into one of the worst starting QBs in the NFL.
So where does Ponder's biggest problem lie? 3rd down. He fails 50% of the time to convert on 3rd when the ball is placed in his hand. Now, Musgrave could reduce the number of failures by letting Peterson carry the ball on the short 3rd down options but that still doesn't change Ponder's inability to execute. Here are the numbers:
|Ponder on 3rd down|
||Sacks||3rd down success|
|Ari - Wk 7||2||6||1||1||10||0||1||14.29%|
|TB - Wk 8||6||12||1||0||95||0||0||41.67%|
|Sea - Wk 9||2||5||0||1||10||0||3||25.00%|
|Det - Wk 10||8||10||1||0||120||7||0||36.36%|
|Chi - Wk 12||8||13||0||0||89||0||1||35.71%|
|GB - Wk 13||2||8||0||0||39||11||0||37.50%|
Arguably, the most important down for the your QB to perform is 3rd down. It extends drives, gives your defense a rest and keeps the other teams D on the field, wearing them down for a guy like AD to go crazy on. Ponder's performance this year has been pretty awful. Out of 59 plays where he has been able to impact the outcome, 20 of those have succeed in the past six games. And even though his numbers aren't horrible in regards to passing on certain games, the passes rarely go to the sticks or beyond them, leaving his WRs to make up the difference. And just to add another point of reference, of those 59 plays, 28 of them have been 3 and 5 to go or less and he completed only 11 of those.
A change is needed. The numbers support it. Ponder's performance support it. The staff of the DN seem to support it wholly. Now the Viking faithful have to hope Frazier will come to support it.