A Look At Ponder's Most Recent Six Games

While kicking around Ponder's stats for the past few weeks, I was interested to see that Ponder's statistical passing performance in 2012 has more or less fallen into 6 game segments; Ponder's first 6 games (with the exception of the 1st Lions game) were generally fine. Ponder's last 6 games (with the exception of the 2nd Lions game) have been awful. Here's a snapshot summary:



Passing Yards

Cmp %

1st 6 games





Last 6 games





Of the most recent six games, the November 11th game against the Lions was his best. It had a 2nd half performance that was arguably Ponder's best passing performance of the season. If he performed like that most weeks, I think I'd be a believer in the Christian Ponder project. Unfortunately, during most weeks over the past two months, he's been a liability for this team. Here are his individual game passing stats over the past six weeks:









W 21-14







L 17-36







L 20-30







W 34-24







L 10-28







L 14-23






In 4 of the last 6 games, Ponder has been a complete statistical stinker. In only the Detroit and Tampa games was Ponder able to complete more than 51% of his passes and average more than 4.76 yards per pass. And in that Tampa game, Ponder's stats were the beneficiary of 117 yards of junk time passing. I believe the story would be quite different had the game not been out of reach when the Bucs went up 36-17 with only 7 minutes remaining in the game.

That last observation got me to wondering to what degree junk time minutes have saved Ponder from an even greater degree of statistical embarrassment. The recent game against the Packers is a pretty obvious case in point. With 4 minutes to go in Sunday's game against the Packers, Ponder got the ball back and managed put together two drives that gave him 56 yards and 27 yards of passing respectively. The first drive with 4 minutes remaining took his yardage total for the game from 36 yards to 92 yards. With 49 seconds left in the game, Ponder got back on the field again. Down by 2 scores, Ponder completed short passes of 7 yards, 7 yards and 13 yards to bring his passing total for the day up to 119. As a result, Ponder managed to avoid another dreaded sub-100 yard passing performance.

More broadly, this what I observed: Out of the last six games, Ponder's passing stats were not affected by junk time minutes in three of them, either because he was having a good game (e.g. the Detroit Lions game) or because the game was closely contested as was the case of the games against the Seahawks and the Cardinals. In the case of the Tampa game, the Chicago game and the Green Bay game, Ponder did benefit from junk time minutes. For purposes of the table below, I conservatively estimated when junk time began. Earlier in the year, I put together a list of the 10 worst, complete game, passing yardage performances. Ponder was on the list three times. Junk minute passing has kept Ponder from adding at least one other game to the list, and if you use less conservative junk time start points, he arguably may have avoided an additional bottom 10 passing performances.

Here is my view of the junk time performances by Ponder and their impact on his stats over the past six games:


Time Remaining at Junk Time

Score at This Time

Passing Up to Start of Junk Time

Passing in Junk Time

Game Passing Total


Game Over


56 yards


56 yards


4Q: 7:03


134 yards

117 yards

251 yards


Game Over


63 yards


63 yards


Game Over


221 yards


221 yards


4Q: 5:14


110 yards

39 yards

159 yards


4Q: 0:47


92 yards*

27 yards

119 yards

I found it interesting to note that in both of the Chicago and Green Bay games, the final score of the game was actually achieved earlier than the times that I have highlighted above. Chicago went up 28-10 at the end of the 3rd quarter with 3:57 left in the quarter. Ponder had just 86 yards in the game up to that point. And as most of us know, when Green Bay went up 23-14 in the 4th quarter with 4 minutes left in the game, Ponder had just 36 yards passing.

If we erase the junk time minutes and yards, Ponder is averaging under 30 yards of passing per quarter in which the game is actually a game. If you remove his one good game during this period (i.e. the Lions games), Ponder is averaging under 24 yards of passing per quarter during times when the game is realistically yet to be decided. To me this result is staggering given that it has been achieved over the course of five games. If you add in the 1st Detroit game, and its 111 yards passing (100 net) you have a full half of Ponder's games averaging less than 25 yards a quarter.

Even looking at Ponder's best statistical passing day, his game against the Redskins, it is interesting to note that 199 of his 352 passing yards occurred after the Redskins took the lead 31-12 with 12:40 remaining in the 4th quarter. Of those 199 yards, 91 occurred in the final drive with the Redskins up 38-26 and 2:43 left in the game; a drive that ultimately ended with a Ponder interception.

Last year, Ponder played worse as the season wore on. Some have suggested that lingering injuries were the cause of Ponder's December plummet last year. However, this year a similar trend has established itself. Only this time the trend has taken hold earlier in the season and is more pronounced. And it is affecting both sides of the ball. As has been noted before, Ponder's horrible second half of football has coincided with an enormously lopsided time of possession. Through the first 6 games of the year the Vikings averaged a time of possession that was over 6 minutes per game GREATER than their opponents. In the last six games of this year, the Vikings have averaged a time of possession of that is more than 13 minutes per game LESS than their opponents. This is a swing of 20 minutes per game!

I think at this point in Ponder's career, after watching him play 22 regular season games, many Vikings fans, including myself, are prepared to throw in the towel on Ponder. A few still cling to the hope that he will become a very good NFL QB. And some are content to see what happens the rest of the season so that we can go into the offseason having given Ponder every chance to prove his worth to the franchise.

My concern with the "further patience" approach is that I do not believe that Ponder is a NFL caliber starting quarterback. As I've noted before, my concerns are:

1. His lack of vision (i.e. frequently staring down receivers and not seeing open ones)

2. The relative weakness of his arm (which manifests itself in his inability to consistently throw; a) good, deep passes; b) the bread and butter out route; and c) consistently, accurately placing the ball to receivers who are not wide open).

3. His lack of pocket presence (i.e. moving himself into trouble rather than buying himself time inside the pocket).

4. His preoccupation with short throws and inability to make defenses pay when they force the issue by pressing the line. Admittedly this is simply an outcome of the first three points above.

A number of people noted early in the season that the danger of Ponder's preoccupation with short throws was that defenses would begin to adjust and take those throw and the "yards after the catch" away from the Vikings. To this point in the season, approximately 35% of Ponder's completions have occurred behind the line of scrimmage. When I last looked a couple of weeks ago, the only QB that we had played who even came close to that percentage of completed passes behind the line of scrimmage was RG3. The rest of the QBs had percentages in the mid teens and mid 20's. Ponder's 70% completion percentage early in the season was largely built on his diet of throws 3 yards past the line of scrimmage or less. Just as some had feared, defenses have been playing more aggressively against the short dink and dunk passes and have been daring Ponder to go deep. Ponder's completion percentage over the past 6 games has dropped to 54.3%. Coincidentally, or not, 54.3% is exactly the same completion percentage that Ponder had in his rookie season.

My utter frustration with Frazier's unwillingness to bench Ponder at this time is partly based on Ponder's performance and partly based on the fact that I believe his backup, Joe Webb, is worth evaluating. If I believed that there was hope that Ponder might someday be a franchise-type QB, I would be okay with Frazier and Company continuing the "Patience for Ponder" approach. However, while I was worried by what I saw from Ponder early on, I thought time would improve some of Ponder's weaknesses. Now I believe that improvement in some areas of Ponder's game will not sufficiently compensate for his overall limitations. I want the experiment to end.

Joe Webb is worthy of getting time on the field. He truly is a project, and I'd like to see what he can do with 4 games left in the season. My fear is that without a change at the QB position, the Vikings will once again force their hand in the offseason and grab a high priced, average talent (or worse) free agent OR make a bad trade for a similar type of quarterback OR make another costly reach in the draft. They may do this anyway, but I'd much prefer they do it after giving another QB on the team a chance to play some meaningful time this season... and as importantly get some meaningful snaps with the 1st team players in practice.

Frazier, Musgrave and Ponder are going to have to get creative if they are going to distract the Vikings fan base from dwelling on Ponder's performance over the past seven weeks. Ponder was been intensely frustrating to watch. Maybe he'll take a page from reality television and dream up an off field distraction to take our minds off of his on-field issues.

On a completely unrelated note, did I just hear Ponder got himself engaged?



Anyway, while the wedding planning begins, me and my thoughts will stay hidden over here in the Daily Norseman's new format Fan Post section.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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