Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Trailing Clouds of Heaven Part Three: The Christian Ponder Performance

To read Pacifist Viking's take on the Viking's 21-14 win, click here.
To read TBird's analysis from the 40 yard line at the Metrodome, click here
You can follow TBird on Twitter as well. Pacifist Viking has a Twitter account, too, but he doesn't tweet much. I do tweet a lot. I just don't know if that's a good thing.  

Christian Ponder The Bad was back in full force Sunday at the Metrodome. I hope it was a cameo.

Vikings fans know the signs all too well after watching him play during his rookie season. Skittishness in the pocket at the first sign of pressure. Poor throwing mechanics leading to inaccurate passes. Boneheaded decision-making. Confidence that evaporated quickly. All of this was on display Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome.

Is this the real Christian Ponder? During the first four games, Ponder was living something of a charmed life for a quarterback. He made some poor throws that were dropped by the Vikings opponents and should have been interceptions. Yet he still played confidently. He made quick decisions on where to throw the ball (sometimes a bit too quick). He threw with conviction. He didn't hold the ball too long. He appeared to be comfortable and in control of an offense that wasn't asking too much of him. In short, he was looking like a competent NFL quarterback at his worst moments, and like a very good NFL quarterback at his best moments. Vikings fans can live with that from Ponder.

What fans - and the Vikings coaching staff - can't live with is what happened to Ponder against Arizona. ESPN's Kevin Seifert wrote on Sunday that Ponder's recent poor play isn't preventing the Vikings from winning. But if he continues to play like he did against the Cardinals, it won't be long before he does. Thursday night's game against Tampa Bay will be the most important in Ponder's career, I believe. He has to erase the stink from his performance against the Cardinals and prove to his teammates, and himself, that he's a quarterback capable of playing a sizable role in a Vikings victory rather than a player the Vikings win in spite of.

In his rookie season, Ponder's play got worse as the season went on, particularly after a three interception outing on the road against Detroit. We read during the offseason that Ponder – by all accounts a hard-working, smart-as-a-whip young man – would learn from those experiences, wouldn't beat himself up so much after making mistakes and wouldn't let one bad play affect the next play. Unfortunately, that's exactly the kind of player I saw on Sunday.

I suspect Vikings offensive coordinator Musgrave will dial up – perhaps even more than usual – a lot of safe, easy throws early in the Tampa Bay game so Ponder can get his mojo back. I just hope that Ponder shows us against the Buccaneers, and beyond, that he's more than just a player coaches have to "put in a position to succeed" or scheme for to simply manage games. This is the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft we have here. That is a draft position where you are supposed to get game-changers, not game managers.

I wouldn't say Ponder looks like a game-changing talent. But I've seen signs that he can be a game-winning talent.Thursday night against Tampa Bay, Ponder must return to the quarterback he was during the first five games of the season, not the quarterback we saw Sunday against Arizona..      


  1. Seems like every game is presented as answering a big question about "who the Vikings really are" but every game creates at least one major question. Can the defense bounce back. Can AP take over a game. Can Ponder get his confidence back.

    Right now I say the Vikings are a 5-2 team, and the rest of the schedule can go take a long walk off a short pier. Let's not look back too thoroughly and let's enjoy each week as it happens.

    That said, I still like speculating and anticipating and worrying like everyone else. Just trying to strike a balance!

    1. Peter:

      A fair point. But I think this question looms larger than any of the others because if Ponder can be the kind of player you'd expect a 12th overall pick to be, the Vikings will be competitive, perhaps even a consistent Super Bowl contender, for the next decade.