Aug 16, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson (4) calls a play during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo defeats Minnesota 20 to 16. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

McLeod Bethel-Thompson Provided Bright Spot at QB

By now everyone has beaten it into the ground that Christian Ponder failed to silence the doubters by his performance on Friday night versus the Buffalo Bills. He finished the game 5-12 for 53 yards with not a touchdown or a pick.

Following the game Ponder admitted to being confused by the different formations the Bills defense presented him. “They’re a very exotic defense, a very good defense,” Ponder said. “They had a lot of different looks. We’re still in pre-season mode, so we didn’t really do any scheming or anything against them. There’s a lot of things we’re going to be able to learn from the tape, and I think next week in San Francisco is going to be the big barometer of where we are as a team. I think the starters will play the first half and a little bit into the second half. So we’ll learn from this one and move on to the next one.” It’s notable of Ponder to admit that he did indeed struggle and he’s 100% correct in pointing out that this is a preseason game. What Buffalo oftentimes did was stacking 7 defenders close the line of scrimmage where none of them have their hands in the dirt. This is referred to the “psycho” formation and for a fine explanation read Chris Brown’s post over at Ponder struggled to recognize who would blitz and who would drop back into coverage. That furthermore had Ponder having a poor reaction to pressure, not being able to make any sort of anticipation throws, taking unnecessary steps in the pocket and delivering his passes with inadequate ball placement. When breaking down the depth of his targets he finished 3-6 on throws inside of 10 yards for 17 passing yards and on throws greater than 10 yards he was 2-4 for 36 yards both of which were to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Yes, he was playing without all-world running back Adrian Peterson allowing Buffalo to more creative with their pass rush knowing the Vikings wouldn’t bring their best rushing attack, but still Ponder’s passing numbers are not getting the job done.

Zooming ahead to the 4th quarter McLeod Bethel-Thompson (MBT), along with the rest of the 3rd team, was inserted into the game with the Vikings down 20-3. At this point Buffalo had pulled all of their defensive starters as well, however still were showing creative defensive formations with that supposedly being a common theme for them this year. The Vikings ended up losing 20-16 with MBT finishing 10-17 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Still it’s more than the standard box score stats that proved why MBT was clearly the Vikings best quarterback on Friday night. MBT he looked in command of the offense pre-snap, oftentimes altering the play call at the line of scrimmage and was not afraid to step up into the pocket delivering his passes with conviction. When looking more at the depth of MBT’s targets he was 6-7 on throws inside of 10 yards for 36 passing yards and on throws greater than 10 yards went 4-7 for 71 yards. The most impressive of those throws was with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter having the Bills in a nickel formation with the Vikings facing a 3rd and 8. MBT was lined up in a shotgun formation where slot cornerback Kip Edwards blitzed the quarterback. MBT recognized the blitz to throw a pass 2.4 seconds after the ball was snapped that traveled 21 yards in the air hitting wide receiver Chris Summers in stride on a post route that resulted in a 1st down. That throw alone was better than anything Ponder has shown this preseason. MBT also faced the same number of Bills blitzes, 9, as Ponder did. Again, this was against a 3rd team Bills defense where a number of players may not make the team, but give MBT credit for getting the Vikings back into the game and not being afraid to test the second level of the defense with his arm.

It’s obviously too soon to suggest anything other than the Vikings must stick to their plan of giving Ponder the 3rd dress rehearsal against San Francisco on Sunday. The team has said time and time again that Ponder is the “unquestioned” starter to begin the 2013 season. But this is the same team that spent heavily on Greg Jennings, re-signed Jerome Simpson, drafted Cordarrelle Patterson and has spoken in glowing terms of Jarius Wright’s development at wide receiver. At the bare minimum though, a certain 3rd stringer’s play has given us a brief time to pause wondering if he’s capable of making the best of this offense balanced once that guy who wears 28 is turned loose.

Jon Merckle may be followed @thevikingpig

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Tags: Minnesota Vikings

  • MikeH123

    I say start Bethel at QB. He can throw it 70 yards on a rope while Ponder and Cassel have noodle arms. Now we and every defense in the NFL learned they can’t even read a blitz.

  • Ramon Lang

    MBT is our best QB and should start. No more Adrian Peterson excuses that he wasn’t in the game. Ponder was horrible last year when AD was in. So how long do you stick with him?

  • David Crosby

    I was saying last year that I liked this kid. One can’t help but wonder what the hell are they thinking not having him in? If he can read a D which alone is 100 in my book but he can put that ball where it needs to be when it needs to be there. Isn’t that the guy you want leading your team? Those stats speaks volumes. Fraziers butt is on the line he better not bring out his inner Childress and stick with Ponder.

    • Draftnik

      I hope Frazier pulls out his inner Jim Harbaugh instead, and makes the gutsy move during the middle of the season to bench Ponder and go with MBT. Not saying we’ll go to the Super Bowl too, but the possibilities are intriguing.

  • Bob E.

    Alright, lets get back to reality. MBT had a great showing against a 3rd string however, Ponder would have done just as well being that the Pressure was much weaker in the 4th quarter. I do however feel that his performance has earned him a fair shot at the #2 QB at least. We know Ponder has the potential to get it done, The Niners game last year showed he can at times. The only question is can he do it on a more consistent basis. We don’t need him to have a cannon arm, we need him to have the skills to make decisive intelligent decisions. Anyone who says a big arm is needed to make it as an NFL QB, needs to Google Petyon Manning.

    • Jake

      I think you missed the part where he said both Ponder and MBT faced the same number of blitzes. I don’t think the pressure was “weaker” in the 4th quarter.

      • Bob E.

        The number of blitzes were indeed the same however, they seemed to be Penetrating much more effectively with the Bills first string. All i’m saying is I cant see justifying a “Bench Ponder” movement on the grounds that a guy looked good against a 3rd/4th string Bills crew.

    • Guest

      Peyton had a strong arm.

    • MikeH123

      A gambler said the Vikings simply outmuscled the 49ers last year and can’t keep up explosive offenses without a better QB. Ponder MIGHT have the arm strength of an old, injured Peyton Manning without any of his abilities to read a D. Actually Cassel earned the #2 spot behind Bethel in the Texans game.

      • Bob E.

        Allow me to be clear, The reason I cited that game was because Ponder looked more decisive in the Niners game. He seemed to be acting on the defense not reacting foolishly to them. And, yes Manning does have a strong arm but, what i was implying was that he is an amazing QB not due to his 50 yard bombs but, his ability to analyze a D on the fly, his great decision making and his clock management skills. All of which don’t hinge on impressive arm strength. And there is no use in hoping for a Ponder replacement anytime this season cuz the whole organization is backing him for his third year. So he either produces in the regular season like we need him to or, we replace his ass with someone who will. We will know by the end of the season and that’s good news for all Viking fans!

  • William Stewart Snodgrass

    Call me whatever you wish however,I do think it’s way too early in the season to start all The arm strength,MBT,Ponder,noodle arm rhetoric.Sure it’s fun it’s what we fans do! I believe Frazier is a lot like Bud Grant used to be…he uses PRESEASON to get as many different looks,combinations to EVALUATE as many pesonnel in PREPARATION for the 16+ weeks ahead.I don’t think any of us should start reading the headlines,drinking the purple poison or Kool-Aid just yet! you’ve all brought up cogent points for the most part however you must agree that there’s a mighty big differance to playing in the 1st quarter as opposed to the 4th quarter of the SECOND preseason game.In the immortal words of Phil Robertson at this point everyone should be;”Happy Happy,Happy!”

  • Daniel Laxen

    Anyone who thinks that MBT is the way to go is fool! The fact is he’s a 3rd string QB. That being said why keep him in a Viking uniform? He was playing vs. scrubs and his balls get batted at the line all too frequently. I look for the Vikings to cut MBT and keep Webb. The reason you ask? Because he can do more to help the team. He can play WR, return kicks, and play the 3rd string QB…What is it that MBT brings to this team? Oh yeah, he’s a 3rd string QB that isn’t better than either guy ahead of him…Get on board this team. The real focal point is AP and Ponder has to manage the game. The defense has to keep the Vikings close and Ponder can’t turn the ball over. Should the Vikings start to click offensively, other that AP, this is a VERY dangerous team and a logical contender in the post season. I’d be shocked if MBT is on this team come cut down day!

  • jason davis

    I like MBT. He has shown that he has excellent arm strength, accuracy, the old gunslinger attitude and steps up in the pocket. He has also shown that he, like Ponder, can make poor decisions. Still, wouldn’t it be interesting to see what he could do with one series with the first string O facing first string D. There are many who feel he is the best on the team. Why not give him a chance to prove it. One series in preseason couldn’t hurt anybody. Everyone rags on him for playing against 3rd and 4th string defenses but he his playing against those defenses with 3rd and 4th string weapons. I could understand nixing the idea if he gave lack luster performances, but he performs above expectations on a consistent basis. Let him have a chance to show his stuff with the starters and if he doesn’t impress then nothing lost.

    • Daniel Laxen

      He’s the 3rd string QB on the Vikings…That speaks volumes about his talent level!

      • jason davis

        Im pretty sure we all know he is the third string QB. His talent is undeniable. He without a doubt has the strongest arm on the team. Surly a even a hater like yourself has to recognize that. My point was it would be interesting to see how he performs with the first stringers since he clearly exceeds expectations with the third and fourth stringers. Why don’t you take a Tylenol and sit back and relax. Just because you think he sucks isn’t going to change others opinions. matter of fact, why don’t you take some time to watch him instead of passing judgment on him simply because he plays for the third string, which by the way he does a great job with the third string offense.

        • Daniel Laxen

          Let’s see. He’s sitting behind 2 QBs that have nearly identical TDs to Turnover ratios. The real difference is that Ponder has only had 27 starts (considered an upside compared to Cassel) whereas Cassel has 62. Ponder averages 1.19 TDs a game compared to Cassel’s 1.32. Turnovers are identical at 1.6 per game. Those are horrible stats, dude!..Tell me again why MBT is being persecuted? I’ll tell you why. He’s not as good as either one of these guys and that is what really speaks volumes! I’m not a hater, either. He left UCLA because he was going to lose his starting job. He’s just not that good!

  • robb

    I like MBT’s quick reads and decisive throws. The best QB on the team. Just because he is # 3 doesn’t mean squat. All it means is the Vikings staff are painstakingly slow to put a better player in and recognize talent. He should be first, Cassel second and completely get rid of Ponder. I feel there are better players all down the depth chart than the starters.