The 2013 NFL season marks Christian Ponder‘s third season with the Minnesota Vikings, and although I thought I had seen it all from the former Florida State quarterback, his performance Thursday night was one of his better ones as a professional, and may indicate he has finally turned the corner. Ponder finished the game 17-21 passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns. This performance earned Ponder a 113.1 quarterback rating, his highest since the final game of the 2012 regular season against the Green Bay Packers in which he finished with a 120 rating and three passing touchdowns.
While it isn’t uncharacteristic of Ponder to under-perform for weeks and then have what some consider a breakout game, this may actually be the point in his career where he turns things around for good. This season was the first time Ponder has been benched while still being healthy, and it very well could have given him the extra motivation needed to step up his game. With Ponder being unable to prove his worth prior to this year, and with a deep QB draft class coming up, the Vikings are in a great position to build a deep and talented quarterback depth chart.
Ponder will likely miss the Vikings’ game next Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks with his dislocated shoulder, simply because the season is over and the Vikings are three deep at the position. After the Seahawks game, however, it is plausible to believe that Ponder will be thrust back into the starting role, and he will have six more games to prove he should be this team’s answer at quarterback going forward.
Even if he does continue to play out the rest of the season at the high level he did on Thursday, the Vikings must use an early round pick on a quarterback in the upcoming draft, as they simply cannot duplicate how this year has gone in 2014, and they must have a viable back-up option if Ponder disappoints. Ponder showed great accuracy and decision making on Thursday, but he failed to do anything spectacular, and that is the reason he will likely be replaced or put in a position where he must succeed to keep his job.
There is still plenty of time left in the regular season to evaluate the play of Ponder and Josh Freeman, both of whom are still playing for a roster spot next season, but a new face must be brought in to serve as the team’s long-term plan at quarterback. Even though the victory Thursday night hurt the Vikings’ draft position, it was a nice change to see a competent quarterback under center,and it also provides the Vikings with plenty of options going forward if Ponder has turned the corner and has become an average NFL quarterback.