As many of you know, I've been pretty vocal of my support of Christian Ponder over the course of this season. At this point, I may be the only person on the planet (outside of Samantha Steele) still supporting him. I've looked for excuses, I've looked for reasons, I've looked for glimmers of hope. . .really, I have.
And after today. . .well, I can't do it any more.
This doesn't mean that the Vikings' wide receivers aren't still awful. . .for the most part, they are. But I just don't understand how things can continue to go the way they've gone. Yes, I know that not much was expected this season from the Minnesota Vikings, and part of me is ecstatic that this team is a .500 team even after a loss like this one. But there comes a point where what was expected becomes less and less important and the time comes to focus on what the team is capable of.
The Minnesota Vikings had a very winnable game in front of them this afternoon at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. They had a lead at halftime. They held Aaron Rodgers to a good game. . .not a great game, but a good game. More importantly, they had Adrian Peterson going absolutely freaking bonkers again. Peterson had the third 200-yard game of his career, carrying the ball 21 times for 210 yards and a career-long 82-yard touchdown run. He had runs of 48 yards and 23 yards that put the Vikings within striking distance of a touchdown.
And on both of those runs, within two plays, Christian Ponder threw ugly interceptions to kill all of the Vikings' momentum. The second one came on the final play of the third quarter, after which the Packers went on an absolutely soul-crushing drive. . .one that spanned seventeen plays and took exactly eleven minutes off of the clock. By the time the Vikings got the ball back, there was just four minutes remaining and the Vikings were down two scores. Or, in terms of this current Vikings' offense, it was over.
Because of that drive by the Packers, Peterson didn't get a single carry in the fourth quarter of play. Yes, the guy averaged seventy yards per quarter for the first three quarters of the game, and because of the situation didn't get a carry in the fourth quarter of play. The Vikings' offense needed to rack up a bunch of garbage time passing yardage just to keep from having another sub-100 yard passing performance. As it was, Ponder wound up 12-for-25 for 119 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
Because of the ineptitude of the passing game, the Vikings' defense. . .which generally performed pretty admirably for most of the afternoon. . .was again overextended, staying on the field for 38:30 of the game's sixty minutes. That's a minute longer than they were on the field for against Chicago. No team can afford to do that, particularly a team like the Vikings that relies so much on the running game and long, sustained drives.
The thing that just boggles the mind about Ponder's performance is this. . .never mind how awful the Vikings' receivers are or the play calling or anything like that. If you have a running back that's averaging ten yards per carry. . .yes, a first down every damn time he catches the ball. . .and that defenses are committing extra defenders to stop on pretty much every down and distance, how are you not absolutely destroying people through the air? How are there not guys running wide open and free on every play, and how are those people not being found? You would think that this pass offense would be getting better over the course of the season. . .but instead it seems to have gotten worse.
Now, I still don't think Joe Webb is the answer, either. But, at this point, I'm not sure if it can get worse. I really don't. I don't know if the Vikings would have been better served to keep a veteran like Sage Rosenfels on the team to talk with Ponder about stuff or what it is, but if this is the best we're going to get out of Christian Ponder. . .then it might be time to just cut bait.
It kills me to say that. . .really, it does. I wanted Ponder to be the guy that the Vikings developed for the long term and carried this team for a decade or more at the quarterback position after years of stop-gaps and temporary solutions. Part of me still wants it to happen. But, at this point, I'm just not sure it's going to be the case. But the Minnesota Vikings' pass offense needs to get better. . .not just for the remainder of this season, but going forward into 2013 as well. Is it going to get better under the continued direction of Christian Ponder? I'm really starting to think that it won't.
This 2012 season was supposed to be about the development of Christian Ponder, and it would be one thing if we actually knew what we had going forward. But, to this point, we have a team that's gone 6-6 under Ponder's direction. . .and, in many cases, it's been as much in spite of Ponder as it has been because of him. I don't think that he's going to get benched any time soon. . .Leslie Frazier just indicated as much in his post-game press conference. . .and if that's the case, the Vikings have a good chance of going into 2013 the same way they went into 2012. . .with questions about the quarterback position.
The rest of this team is good enough to win. . .they've proven that over the course of this season. If Christian Ponder doesn't somehow show some marked improvement over the season's final four games, the rest of the team will be going forward with a new leader.