The Minnesota Vikings are having a bad season. There is no other way to put it. The Vikes' traded for veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb before the season began, and he led them nowhere but to a single win; and that win could be mainly attributed to Adrian Peterson. Early this week, head coach Leslie Frazier reached the conclusion that Minnesota had nothing to lose and that the team would start first-round rookie quarterback Christian Ponder in their next game against the undefeated Green Bay Packers.
Most thought that the Packers exotic defense and opportunistic secondary would dominate Ponder and the game would end in a total blowout. Well, if Cam Newton and Tim Tebow have taught as anything, don't doubt rookie quarterbacks. Ponder exploded into the NFL in his first rookie start, and from the first snap of the game was on fire, throwing deep for a touchdown, (which was later reversed, but Ponder still threw a touchdown two plays later), on the first snap of the game.
Ponder continued the trend throughout the first three quarters, and kept the Vikings within striking distance of the Packers throughout. However, when push came to shove, the Vikings failed to convert on a third down late in the fourth and elected to punt the ball back to Green Bay. Following the punt, the Vikes' defense failed to contain James Starks and the Packers were able to wind out the clock, never giving Ponder a chance to win the game.
Even though Minnesota lost, this game proves a lot about Ponder and the Vikings organization. First and foremost being Ponder was and is NFL ready, and those doubters can be silenced now. Second, the Vikings, despite a totally poor record at (1-5) are not ready to just toss in the towel and give up on the season. This squad was playing like they were still aiming to win the division, and their current record didn't mean anything. Third, (and possibly most importantly), Ponder is the future of the Vikes' team and there will be no questions asked.
Here is a quick look at Ponder's final stat line against Green Bay:
- 13/32, 219 yards passing
- 6.8 average yards per pass
- Four rushing attempts for 31 yards
- Two passing touchdowns, and two interceptions
- Final QB rating, 59.2
Obviously Ponder's quarterback rating was nothing to get excited about. But what really ended up axing his final rating was the two interceptions that he threw, both of which were to future Hall of Fame corner Charles Woodson. I would go as far as to say that Ponder's final stats don't even really do justice for the job he did late in the game, as he was able to keep Minnesota stride for stride with the defending champs, and he routinely converted on third and long.
For a quarterback that was being considered to be a late first rounder at best -- he is looking like a great pick. Even more so for a rookie who rode the pine behind a veteran for the first six weeks of the season, and only saw playing time in limited bursts. This game proves that the Vikings did not reach for the Florida State product, and that he really was worthy of the top 15 draft selection, despite what the experts said during the draft.
Looking around the NFL at the other rookies currently starting, I don't know if any of them could have kept the composure that Ponder had late in the game. He looked more like a veteran than a rookie who was making his first career start. The composure that Ponder held reminded me a lot of Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, and I think that the Vikes' may have snagged a quarterback that has ice water in his veins.
Minnesota has the pieces on offense and a fairly consistent defense, and they nearly handed the undefeated Aaron Rodgers Pack-Attack a loss, and that was with Ponder at the helm. That feat in itself is something that Vikings fans should be proud of, and something that quite honestly, I never would have predicted. Minnesota may have left the game with another L in the column, but this win proves that the Vikings have a bright future with Ponder at quarterback.