COMMENTARY: Ponder as starter produces hope for Vikings fans, though not a win

MINNEAPOLIS For a brief moment, at least, everything was absolutely perfect in the midst of this terrible football season. On the first play from scrimmage Sunday, Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder rolled to his left and released the fo...

Ponder tosses against Packers
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) during the second half of an NF football game between the Vikings and the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy King)


For a brief moment, at least, everything was absolutely perfect in the midst of this terrible football season.

On the first play from scrimmage Sunday, Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder rolled to his left and released the football. It flew straight and true and landed in the arms of receiver Michael Jenkins, who didn't have to break stride. Jenkins kept going all the way to the end zone.

The play covered 73 yards, and just like that, the Vikings led the hated Green Bay Packers 7-0. The Metrodome was shaking to its very foundation.

Suddenly, all the rest of it was forgotten. All the tawdriness and disappointment was shoved to the back burner. Even as that play unfolded, starting cornerback Chris Cook was being held in the Hennepin County Jail on charges of felony domestic assault. It was the Vikings' sixth arrest in the past nine months.


On the sideline, wide receiver Bernard Berrian was in street clothes for the second time in three weeks, apparently the result of another act of insubordination. Berrian's future with the Vikings likely is over. Frazier said a decision would be made this week.

But Ponder's first throw against the defending champion Packers lifted the spirits of a bedraggled fan base.

"That was a big play for our football team," coach Leslie Frazier said. "It really got the energy in the building revved up."

Of course, great moments don't linger for the Vikings this season. The referee reviewed the play

and decided Jenkins stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Ponder threw a short TD pass to Visanthe Shiancoe two plays later, and the Vikings still had their 7-0 lead. Eventually, however, they would lose 33-27 and fall to 1-6.

"He played with a lot of heart," Jenkins said of Ponder. "He made plays with his arm and his feet. He kept shooting, and that's what you have to do at the position."

"It gives a lot of hope for the future," Frazier said.

The fans had been clamoring for Ponder since Donovan McNabb began struggling in the very first game. In fact, reports surfaced earlier Sunday that McNabb not only was benched in order to give Ponder a chance but also because he was lazy and refused to put in the proper amount of work.


The difference between the two was astounding. The offense looked much quicker with Ponder taking shots down the field. But the biggest difference was apparent afterward. Following each lousy performance, McNabb remained nonchalant, always pointing out the good things he felt he did despite the multitude of losses.

Ponder wasn't perfect by any means Sunday. He finished 13 of 32 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 31 yards and was intercepted twice.

"I made some mistakes personally," he said. "I put this loss on me."

He shouldn't.

"It was definitely on me. It's all on my shoulders," Ponder insisted.

No way. But it was refreshing to see someone hold himself accountable. Furthermore, Ponder gave credit to everybody and anybody while deflecting attention from himself. The bottom line, he noted, was that it still was just another loss.

"We're sticking behind coach Frazier, and we're trying to rally," Ponder said.

Frazier can use all the friends he can get. The team appeared close to imploding last week. After the Chicago game, he noted that his defensive line wasn't as physical as the Bears'. Several linemen responded by firing back at the coach, challenging him to be specific and name names. Kevin Williams was particularly incensed.


There is the Cook problem, the Berrian problem and, perhaps, the McNabb problem. The latter came here on a one-year deal hoping to revitalize his career and end up with a lucrative contract somewhere else in 2012. Meanwhile, the Vikings virtually declared him washed up by benching him. McNabb can't be happy.

Yes, but wasn't that a terrific throw by Ponder?

"It was a decent play to open the game up with," Frazier said with a smile.

The team's top draft pick last summer, Ponder, out of Florida State, had trouble sleeping the night before his first start. He woke up at 5:15 a.m., forced himself to stay in bed, then opened his eyes for good at 6:15.

"I had a hard time sleeping in," he said. "It couldn't come fast enough. I did have some butterflies."

Ponder survived a rocky third quarter and came close to leading the team to an upset. Of course, any victory by the Vikings this season will be considered an upset. They'll get another chance at Carolina next week.

"He took charge," Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said. "He never seemed rattled, just very comfortable, which is something I'm very excited about. He bounced back from the two interceptions and continued to go strong against them, which says a lot about him as a leader."

Put it all together, and it's called hope. And it can push a lot of bad stuff out of mind, at least for a while.


Distributed by MCT Information Services

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