Vikings' finish may have solidified Ponder's role
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Christian Ponder's future as the Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback may have been sewn up without him even throwing a pass.
Ponder was a late scratch for the divisional playoff game against Green Bay on Saturday night, leaving the Vikings offense in the hands of backup Joe Webb, an intriguing athlete that many impatient fans were clamoring for earlier in the season when Ponder was struggling.
In his first extended action of the season, Webb delivered a dreadful performance in a 24-10 loss at Lambeau Field that ended Minnesota's surprising season. He completed just 11 of 30 passes for 180 yards, one touchdown and one interception while Ponder watched from the sideline as a late scratch because of a bruised triceps muscle in his throwing arm.
"It was tough," Ponder said after the game. "Obviously, the whole team has been through a lot and for us to get our first playoff experience and everything it was tough. But we've just got to look forward to next year and hopefully we're going to have more opportunities to do it. I've just got to work my butt off to get back here."
It seems more certain than ever that Ponder will be the guy again when next year rolls around, which wasn't always the case in a rocky first full season as the man. Ponder started out strong during the team's 5-2 start, but struggled mightily during a stretch of four losses in five games that threatened to waste star running back Adrian Peterson's remarkable comeback season. The fans started to turn on him, booing him at the Metrodome and flooding talk radio shows with calls for the supremely athletic Webb to get a shot.
Ponder went six straight weeks with a completion percentage below 55 percent and three times failed to hit the 100-yard mark, turning the Vikings into a one-dimensional offense that relied almost solely on Peterson's individual brilliance.
But with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, Ponder finally started to respond. He completed nearly 71 percent of his throws in a win at St. Louis on Dec. 16, avoided the big mistakes in a win at Houston the following week and came up with his best game as a pro in the biggest game of the season — 234 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Green Bay that go the Vikings into the playoffs.
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