Winning is supposed to take the heat off right? Well don’t tell that to Christian Ponder. His team won and he’s still getting crushed. The Vikings beat the Bears to move to 7-6 overall and 3-2 against the very tough NFC North division. But this didn’t change the narrative for Ponder. The story is still the same for the him. “The Vikings could be a playoff team if it weren’t for their quarterback.” That about sums up the sentiments being expressed about Ponder.
Ponder was blamed for the loss in Green Bay, and rightfully so. The Vikes were up in that game and trying to build on their lead when he threw the first of his two terrible interceptions. The Vikings went on to lose and Ponder justifiably came in for tons of criticism. Against the Bears, the same scenario for a time seemed to be playing out. Thanks to Adrian Peterson, the Vikings built a big early lead. Then Ponder threw a terrible pick trying to force the ball downfield to a covered Jarius Wright. Not only was it a terrible decision, but Ponder made the throw off his back foot. It had no chance.
The Bears didn’t have time to capitalize on the interception but that’s beside the point. It was a terrible forced downfield throw in a situation where the Vikings were at least trying to put 3 more points on the board if not another 7. It ended up that the play didn’t matter but at the time it looked like it could’ve been a huge mistake. And it wasn’t Ponder’s only major brainfart of the first half. His first mistake was actually more egregious from a pure “football smarts” point-of-view. Ponder was in the process of being sacked, but instead of just eating the ball he tried to throw it out at the last second to avoid the loss of yardage. Had the referees not bailed Ponder out by calling his forward progress stopped, the play could’ve been ruled a sideways pass and therefore a fumble. And the Bears had a clear recovery on the play and would’ve had the ball deep in Minnesota territory. For a second-year quarterback to be making decisions that boneheaded is just beyond explanation.
Those two first half brainlocks by Ponder certainly annoyed Leslie Frazier and Bill Musgrave. But they didn’t yank him from the game as many Viking fans wanted. They let him stay out there in the second half. It was a brutal second half offensively for the Vikings. Adrian Peterson found very little running room with the Bears selling out to stop him. Under normal circumstances, an OC would try to capitalize on that sort of defensive overload by throwing. But the Vikings attempted only 9 passes the whole second half. And most of them were of the very short, very safe variety. I think this speaks volumes about where the Vikings are with Ponder. After Harrison Smith’s pick-six to put the Vikes up 21-7, Bill Musgrave basically shut Ponder down. He said to himself “No way I’m letting this guy lose it for us.”
Thankfully, the defense was able to hold up in the second half. The Bears were unable to mount the big comeback many of us expected to see. The defensive line not only harassed Jay Cutler, they knocked him out of the game. The Bears basically shut themselves down by yanking Cutler late. Both teams played it very safe with their quarterbacks. In the Bears’ case, that was more about their offensive line and their QB’s health. In the Vikings’ case it was all about protecting Ponder from himself.
So what does this all mean for Ponder? Leslie Frazier can talk his usual generic nonsense about the team having faith in Ponder. But the way the Vikes played it in the second half speaks louder. If you ask me, the Vikings clearly have zero faith in Ponder right now. The fanbase and media aren’t that high on him either. Until he stops making dumb decisions and hurting the team, that will continue to be the story. If the Vikes lose, it will be his fault. If they win, it will be in spite of him. That’s the perception. Now can Ponder change that perception? I’m beginning to seriously doubt it.
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