Ponder becoming a problemMinnesota’s pathetic 30-20 loss to Seattle on Sunday makes it official. Except for the Vikings’ rushing game and Blair Walsh’s superb kicking, everything that Minnesota was doing well early in the season has now faded into oblivion over the last four games — thank you Arizona for letting us win one.
By: Casey Johnson For The Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Minnesota’s pathetic 30-20 loss to Seattle on Sunday makes it official. Except for the Vikings’ rushing game and Blair Walsh’s superb kicking, everything that Minnesota was doing well early in the season has now faded into oblivion over the last four games — thank you Arizona for letting us win one.
For starters, Minnesota’s defense is in shambles. The defense has allowed over 31 points per game during the last 4 games, and that is against opponents that currently have a combined 16-19 record. Also during this awesome stretch —sarcasm — the Vikings have lost the turnover battle 10-3, have committed roughly six penalties per game, have given up 165 rushing yards per game, and have possessed the ball around 26 minutes per game compared to 34 minutes of possession for their opponents. I could keep rattling off statistics that will make Vikings fans want to ralph, but for the sake of sanitation and hygiene, I’ll refrain.
The most glaring difference, though, between the Vikings’ early season success and their recent skid has been the disappearance of the solid early season play of Christian Ponder. Ponder again struggled mightily on Sunday and completed just 11 of 22 passes for 63 yards. And yes, that was in an NFL game, not a fifth- or sixth-grade tackle football game.
Admittedly, Ponder successfully fooled me into thinking that he might have some level of ability that could allow him to be a good NFL quarterback, and I defended him on more than one occasion. Well, I am no longer defending him, until he returns from his recent three-game hiatus. And please, no one defend his 19-for-35, 251 yard performance against Tampa Bay because about half of his completions and around 115 yards came in the fourth quarter when that game was already completely locked up.
Over these last few games, it seems as if Christian Ponder the quarterback has been on vacation sipping Mai Tais on a beach somewhere, and Christian Ponder the wannabe professional bowler has taken his place. I mean, the likelihood of the ball hitting the ground is about just as good as it is for a bowler, and his average attempt is roughly the length of a bowling lane — about nine yards. Honestly, the next time he completes a meaningful pass for over 20 yards that isn’t a screen, I think I might faint.
Ponder must snap back to life because he holds the key to the Vikings’ chance for success. If he can play well, it will keep the defense off the field more, it will lead to more Vikings’ points (obviously), and it will breathe energy and life into a presently putrid squad.
I think that someone needs to pull out the old movie trick where you grab a bucket of cold water and throw it onto a seemingly lifeless person in order to rouse Ponder back to life. After that, (in a sort of montage-esque fashion) a member of the Vikings staff or a wise former player, like Brett Favre, needs to act as a mentor and take Ponder through a series of tasks to enhance his skills and boost his confidence. I’m thinking that these challenges could include the “mentor” forcing Ponder to throw footballs through tire swings (some even past five yards), showing him how to read defenses correctly, and teaching him how to not wet himself every time that he gets under pressure.
I know that I’ve harped on the pocket presence thing all year, but if anything, it seems that Ponder’s pocket presence is getting even worse. And to boot, he has no confidence to throw the ball downfield, except on fly routes down the sideline where he appears to have a better chance of completing the pass to a cameraman on the sideline than to his own receiver. To be frank, though, it doesn’t appear that he has much confidence on any of his throws. He’s having about as much trouble throwing the ball as the catcher from Major League 3 (Rube Baker) who can’t even throw the ball back to the pitcher.
Ponder’s bubble screen pass over Harvin’s head in the red zone during the second quarter is a good example of his difficulties. After the possession (which ended in a field goal), when the Vikings’ offense went to the sideline and Percy had a meltdown, something tells me that he was voicing his frustration over the fact that, at the moment, Ponder can’t even do simple things right.
I realize that this is a stark change in tone from my last piece, but if your starting quarterback isn’t capable of throwing for more than 63 yards on 22 attempts and if your defense can’t stop anyone, you cannot win football games.
I’d hoped that a win against the Seahawks could right the Vikings’ ship, but instead, the game revealed that the Vikings continue to be in a state of utter disarray. I’m no longer trying to talk Vikings fans down off the ledge because it will take an absolute miracle for this team to make the playoffs now. The Vikings just got embarrassed by the Redskins, Bucs, and Seahawks over three of the last four weeks, with an ugly win over Arizona being the only somewhat bright spot.
So how are the Vikings possibly going to hold up against really good teams like the Bears, Packers, and Texans? This season could truly get ugly if something doesn’t change and change quickly.
Here’s to hoping that the training montage works and that, going forward, Ponder can actually give the Vikings a chance to win.
Casey Johnson is a frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner