Through the first four games of the season Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was the ultimate ‘game manager.’ He didn’t throw an interception, while making most of the correct decisions and throws along the way. It certainly wasn’t flashy, but it got the job done.
Four games later the second-year quarterback has far from progressed, and he’s almost certainly regressed. Over the last four contests he’s thrown 7 interceptions, most of which were lazy throws into places he shouldn’t have been going.
The early criticism of the Vikings’ offense was that they weren’t taking enough shots down the field, and while they still haven’t done so very much in the last four games, when Ponder has gone deep, it hasn’t been good. The team has tried a little to expand Ponder’s range, but so far it’s been unsuccessful.
The Vikings’ offensive attack basically consists of a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson, mixed in with a bunch of three yard passes to Percy Harvin. These two are good enough to propel the Vikings to victory against most teams, but as the season goes on, and the competition gets tougher, two stars will not be enough.
No matter how good Peterson and Harvin are, they alone cannot make this young Vikings team a legitimate contender this season. That responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Ponder.
If this season is going to get turned back around for Minnesota, Ponder must play better, simple as that. The way he’s performed over the last several weeks is not going to cut it. To right the ship he must revert to his conservative game manager role from the first few weeks. It’s not ideal, because you’d like to see him evolving with each game, but the Vikings really don’t have much of a choice.
Going into a match-up with the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday, Ponder will be thrown into arguably the most hostile environment in the NFL, certainly not a game for him to be flashy and take a lot of chances. It’s a game where he must take the safe throws, get rid of the ball when nothing is there, and not turn the ball over.
Minnesota has no chance on the road if Ponder doesn’t play the game manager role to a tee. There will be plenty of more games down the line to evolve him in the pocket, but for now, Minnesota must take the conservative route.