COMMENTARY | As the Minnesota Vikings are in London in search of their first win of the season in Sunday's "home" game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are plenty of questions as to what has gone wrong in the early going of the season. The primary reason the Vikings have stumbled out of the gate rests on the shoulders of quarterback Christian Ponder.
Minnesota Vikings fans have never believed that Ponder was going to be the second-coming of John Elway, and the only similarity between the two is that they share the same No. 7 on their jerseys. But there was reason to believe Ponder would turn into a competent quarterback, which is all that is needed when you have Adrian Peterson to hand the ball off to.
In 2012--Ponder's first full season as a starting quarterback--he threw for 18 touchdowns and was intercepted 12 times. His quarterback rating of 81.2 ranked 21st in the league, but it was good enough to get the Vikings into the playoffs. With a year's worth of experience under his belt, it was believed, or at the very least hoped, that he may even be able to improve upon those numbers slightly.
Instead, Ponder has taken a step backwards and his quarterback rating of 65.9 puts up at No. 30, ahead of only New York Jets rookie Geno Smith and the equally maligned Josh Freeman of Tampa Bay.
The numbers don't tell the whole story of Ponder's ineffectiveness, however, as his receivers have made several nice plays getting to poorly thrown deep balls and his statistics may look a bit better than his play has warranted.
Last Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns is a better example, as the Vikings had an opportunity to pick up a first down with 3.5 minutes remaining and a three-point lead. Instead, Ponder overthrew a wide-open Greg Jennings on a third-and-four play and had to give the ball back to the Browns.
In 2012, Ponder was asked not to lose games and for the most part, was able to accomplish that. He lost five fumbles on the season and turned the ball over 17 times. In 2013, Ponder has turned the ball over seven times through three games, putting him on pace to more than double the number of last year's miscues.
The Vikings have enough talent where they don't need an All-Pro quarterback or even a top-tier signal caller. They do need a quarterback they have confidence in and can occasionally make a big play when needed. So far in 2013, Ponder has given the Vikings neither of those.
Allen Moody is an author and sports bettor living in Nevada. A newspaper sports reporter for 12 years, he has been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings since the 1970s.
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- Christian Ponder
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