Vikings vs. Packers: Why Minnesota Must Build Around QB Christian Ponder in 2013

Soven Bery@@realsovenberySenior Analyst IJanuary 6, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 30: Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings runs from Green Bay Packers defenders during the third quarter on December 30, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Packers 37-34. (Photo by Andy Clayton King/Getty Images)
Andy King/Getty Images

Christian Ponder didn’t play in the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 loss to their rival Green Bay Packers on Wild Card Weekend. 

Yet, his absence told us everything we needed to know about the struggling second-year quarterback.

He is very much needed in the Twin Cities. 

We learned that fact as Joe Webb filled in for the injured Ponder and struggled heavily against a team the incumbent had beaten just a week earlier. 

But this isn’t a knock on Webb. The situation was unfavorable, and the game plan didn’t match his strengths. Webb hadn’t thrown a pass all season prior to this contest plus, the Green Bay defense was stingy and his best target was a tight end. 

This is more of praise for Ponder.

Yes, the Florida State product also had his struggles this year. 

He was at the helm of the 31st-ranked passing attack in the league boasting a 81.2 quarterback rating on the season, good for 43rd place in the NFL. Ponder averaged just 183.4 yards per game, placing the much-malinged Mark Sanchez right above him. In addition, the Viking racked up just 2,935 yards on the season, 25th in the NFL.  

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However, the fact of the matter is that Ponder took Minnesota to the playoffs. 

He was blessed with the best running back in the league, but it was his arm that made some crucial throws to push Minnesota into the postseason. 

That alone was incredibly difficult for Ponder and should be commended. 

It was clear that the passing game was an issue of concern for Leslie Frazier and company. The fact that Webb was abysmal only further stressed the point. 

He posted a 54.9 quarterback rating with as many touchdowns as interceptions (one). The duel threat went 11-for-30 with 180 passing yards and an added 68 yards on the ground. 

The outcome was atrocious. 

Webb was thrown into the fire and posted the numbers he did for a simple reason. 

He hasn't reached his potential, but his surroundings were even worse. 

Webb was standing behind an offense line ranked 16th in pass protection and throwing to a receiving corps ranked dead last in the NFL. 

How does one expect any quarterback to succeed in that situation? 

Ponder got by in horrible circumstances and made something out of nothing this season. 

The Minnesota Vikings must reward the young quarterback with more weapons in 2013. 

Michael Jenkins as the No. 1 wide receiver isn’t going to cut it in the NFL. Yes, I understand Percy Harvin was injured, and tight end Kyle Rudolph stepped up in his absence, but this is a team in desperate need of more pieces. 

Because of this playoff run, Minnesota won’t have a high draft pick, but they need to select smart and scourge free agency for a wide receiver to complement Harvin.

The Vikings can brag about the best running game in all of football. They can show off a top ranked, smash-mouth defense. They can talk big about a playoff team. 

Talking is nice, but pointing to a ring would be even nicer. 

Minnesota isn’t too far away from that if Zygi Wilf finds a way to overhaul the passing game. He has to surround his developing quarterback with legitimate targets. 

The Vikes are that close. 

Yes, they have the best back in the NFL, but Ponder wasn’t completely awful in 2012. 

He just needs a bit more help. 

The Minnesota Vikings must learn from this playoff loss and surround Christian Ponder with receiving talent.

If that happens, they might never have to experience this postseason disappointment again.