I have rightly earned a reputation as a Ponder Hater on this board. Watching the game today has not entirely changed that, but I must give credit where credit is due. Ponder was the only reason why the game was close to the end. His two touchdowns and a few of his improvised drive extending runs. He seemed more settled in the pocket than usual. That doesn't mean he has reached "average", just that there was some improvement. His pocket presence was GENERALLY good, though that last play was horrible. His mechanics seemed better. His accuracy wasn't great, but seemed to be "good enough" when comparing to other throws throughout the league.
In other words THE VIKINGS DID NOT LOSE BECAUSE OF PONDER!!
I think the Vikings lost due to poor coaching. My friends and I were calling every offensive play in the second half correctly. Mind you, we were not calling what should have been done, but instead, calling out what the Vikings would do. We were correct almost 90% of the time. First down pass, incomplete, second down run AP up the middle, third down pass to the line of scrimmage or at most 7 yards ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE LINE TO GAIN. Musgrave is a must fire right away. He is not able to call a decent game at all. I am starting to wonder if he is holding Ponder back. I'm beginning to think that Ponder is doing what he is told, rather than what he knows to be right. I'm not entirely in that camp, but I'm seeing some evidence to support that point of view.
Special Teams: As other people have stated on other threads: HOW DO YOU NOT ACCOUNT FOR A WIDE OUT ON A 4TH DOWN PLAY? Sure, they could have teased that he was going off the field, but someone on the defense should have caught that. If nothing else, the coach should have saw it and called a time out.
Defense: Sucked. Jared Allen seems to be playing worse (my unprofessional opinion) than he did WITH the torn Labrum. The defensive schemes for the most part were uninspiring. Very few blitzes. Most teams will blitz on third and long...the Vikings seem to just allow long passes for first downs. Notice two things: 1) when the Browns were in a third and long, they threw the ball at or past the first down marker (unlike the Vikings) and 2) The Vikings defense seems to take the demeanor of the head coach...no aggressiveness. No contesting of catches, It's like we have a defense that's designed to allow no yards after the catch rather than a defense designed to allow no catches. Yes, there were a lot of good plays, on what ended up being inconsequential downs. Good stops on first and second downs only allow the third down conversion. I don't know if this is Allen William's defense or if it is Leslie Frazier's.
We have heard constantly that Frazier gets a pass on the offensive side of the ball because he is a defensive minded coach. While I don't agree, those people better not give him a pass on the defensive side. If that is his specialty, he should be able to identify what is going wrong and try to fix it. He is not. Frazier cost the team a lot today, from not getting the team prepared during the week, to getting a penalty by throwing a challenge flag within 2:00 minutes of the end first half (all booth reviews) to simply not challenging his coordinators to come up with something different. An aggressive game plan. Adjustments that, while they happened, were too small to count. I mean, changing from AP on first and AP on second and short pass on third and punt on fourth to pass on first, AP on second to short pass on third to punt on fourth is still very predictable...especially when you do it 4 series in a row. Frazier appears to be lost as a head coach. Sorry, to burst your bubble Frazier, but because this defense worked good in the 90's in Tampa Bay doesn't mean it works well today. He seems unable to recognize anything during the game and doesn't seem to be able to put together a winning game plan to save his life.
So, thanks for reading this really long post, but to recap, Ponder is not the reason for failure, coaching is.