Two of the biggest plays in Sunday’s 23-14 loss to the Packers were interceptions thrown by Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
Both of the picks came with the Vikings in field goal range after long runs by Adrian Peterson put the ball in good positions. One of the interceptions came in the end zone and the points missed on those second half drives loomed large as the Vikings tried to make up two scores in the final minutes. They weren’t the only reason the Vikings lost the game, but they loomed awfully large in the final reckoning.
Ponder’s day was pretty ghastly even without the interceptions. He completed only five passes until Minnesota was in scramble mode at the end of the game and his effort wound up wasting a very strong Peterson performance and leaving the Vikings’ playoff hopes on life support. After the game, coach Leslie Frazier said the team won’t turn to another quarterback in order to resuscitate them.
“Christian is our quarterback,” Frazier said, via Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press. “We are going to do all we can to help him have a good game against Chicago and to help our team go out and get a win.”
Frazier said that the game needs to be a learning experience for the young quarterback, something that makes sense given the team’s commitment to Ponder if not the idea that Joe Webb might have been able to help them win on this Sunday. Powers wondered if the rest of the Vikings would be thrilled to hear the team was sticking with the long-term goal of developing Ponder even if it comes at the expense of winning games now.
“I don’t think it will be a tough sell,” Frazier said. “These guys are teammates that want the same thing. They know we can win with the personnel that we have. We’ve shown that we can. We just have to do a few things better.”
There’s no guarantee that Webb would have done better, but there are also no guarantees that Ponder will develop into a quality NFL starter. That makes gambling on a long-term payoff at the expense of short-term pain (five losses in seven games to slide onto the fringes of the playoff race) a big risk for Frazier, General Manager Rick Spielman and the rest of the Vikings decision makers.