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Thus far, Ponder has created more turnovers than TDs.
Coming into the season, one of the biggest questions for the Vikings was whether Christian Ponder would be the team's quarterback of the future.
So far, the answer to that question appears to be a resounding "No."
After three weeks, Ponder is the 30th-rated quarterback in the NFL. He's committed seven turnovers (five interceptions and two fumbles) and has produced four touchdowns (two running, two passing). As a point of reference, Ponder's current rating of 65.9 is roughly half that of league-leader, Peyton Manning.
While numbers don't always tell the whole story, Ponder's statistics seem to be a result of many factors that are easy for fans to spot.
Ponder has displayed poor pocket presence. At times, he seems to have almost no idea what he wants to do when he drops back. He struggles to set his feet, and he has actually been more effective while throwing on the move than while standing in the pocket.
Ponder also appears to lock on to his first read and to throw to that primary receiver regardless of what the coverage dictates. This was particularly evident in Week 2, when Ponder's inability to check down caused him to force a pass to the sidelines. That ball was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Chicago's Tim Jennings.
Last Sunday's game against Cleveland highlighted Ponder's poor decision-making. Trailing by four points with 47 seconds left in the game, Ponder dropped back to pass. When his outside receivers failed to break open, Ponder flipped the ball into the middle of the field. This resulted in a four-yard gain and allowed the clock to continue running.
In that situation, there were a number of things that Ponder could have done. Almost any of them would have been preferable to what he actually did. He could have thrown the ball out of bounds to stop the clock. He could have run for as much yardage as possible, angling for the sideline as he went (Cleveland had seven players about 35 yards downfield at the time). If nothing else, he could have thrown the ball to the sideline where only his receiver could catch it. Instead, he made the worst decision possible.
While a lot of observers put the blame for the loss mostly on Ponder's shoulders, at least one player isn't so sure. According to Bruce Brothers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Ponder still MVP Adrian Peterson squarely in his corner. Peterson chastised the fans for their displeasure with the young quarterback.
While Peterson still believes in Ponder, Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press says that Vikings fans aren't as forgiving.
"Ponder, never first in the hearts of the Vikings faithful, has become the poster child for the team's lousy start. To paraphrase an old joke about Howard Cosell: There's no middle ground with regard to how people feel about Christian Ponder. Half of them hate him like poison. The other half just hates him regular."
It seems that Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is starting to feel the heat. The team announced on Wednesday that Ponder injured his ribs during the Cleveland game, and will be limited in practice for the remainder of the week. According to the team's timeline, Ponder was injured before he rushed for two scores in the game, and was able to finish.
This is only speculation, but if Peyton Manning had the same type of injury as Ponder does, it's most likely that he would be on the field Sunday. Look for the Vikings to use Ponder's ailment as a reason to give Matt Cassel a chance.
The Vikings don't need Ponder to win games for them. They just need him to stop losing them.