Defending quarterback Christian Ponder was the general theme of Vikings coach Leslie Frazier’s press conference at Winter Park on Monday, a day after the Packers beat the Vikings 23-14 at Lambeau Field.
Ponder was 12 for 25 for 119 yards and had two critical interceptions in the game, negating a 210-yard rushing performance by Adrian Peterson.
Frazier said he “never really” considered replacing Ponder with backup Joe Webb, but said Ponder would “have to be better” on Sunday when the Vikings play the Bears at the Metrodome.
What does Frazier say to the fans who want Ponder benched?
"When you are in a business where you're judged by results and results for us are based on wins and losses, when you come up short that does create some frustration,” Frazier said, “but we do have confidence that Christian will continue to get better. That was a tough day at times for him yesterday. … We think he's more than capable of being successful. He showed it early in the season, he's played some consistent football for us. We've got to get him back to playing that way.”
Frazier acknowledged that Ponder was tentative at times: “Sometimes you got to throw the ball when guys come out of their breaks. In our league, it's not very often that guys are going to be wide open. So when we say throw it on time, on time means when the guy comes out of his break deliver the football. You've got to be able to make that decision whether you can get it in there or not.”
“I still think he's a very confident quarterback. I really do. We just got to get him to the point where we're making some of those plays that we know he's capable of making. … in our business, so much falls on the quarterback's shoulders. He's the guy who gets a lot of accolades when the team wins and he gets a lot of blame when your team loses. But there are some things he can do better and he knows that.”
Frazier was asked about backup quarterback Joe Webb, and said, “We think Joe can do it. We think he's a quality quarterback. He's our backup now. If he had to step in and play, we have confidence that he would do a good job. But we do have confidence that Christian is going to play better. He knows he has to in order for us to win. But with Joe, we think he's very capable. That's why we kept him on the roster, kept him in the spot that he's in. We know if necessary he'd be able to help us.”
Frazier didn’t seem to rule out pulling Ponder from a game, however. When asked about Vikings players losing faith in Ponder, Frazier said, “When you're struggling at a position, the guys know how we talked about everybody doing their jobs and why it's important for us to have our success. You don't want to send mixed messages at any position. It's important that all the positions do their jobs and function well. The quarterback position is always under that bright light. … There's a lot riding on this next ballgame for our football team and I'm sure there are a lot of guys looking and wondering if we can get it done under the current situation. I believe we can. I believe we'll play better, not only at the quarterback position but at other positions as well.”
Vikings wide receivers did not catch a pass against the Packers until the final minutes, and have come under heavy criticism the past few games for their lack of production.
“They've got to get open,” Frazier said. “They've got to make the catch when the opportunity comes. … We had a number of dropped balls in that Chicago ballgame and it wasn't all just on Christian to get some completions. It's a combination of protection along with guys getting open and making catches when they have an opportunity and the quarterback being able to deliver the football. That's part of having a good passing game. So our receivers know that, our quarterback knows it, our offensive line knows it and now we've got to find a way to be more productive in the passing game."
On the injury front, Frazier said defensive end Jared Allen had back spasms and was having an MRI today, although he suspected Allen would be ready to play Sunday against Chicago. Center John Sullivan (rib contusion) is also likely to play. Percy Harvin (ankle) has missed the past two games, and Frazier said the team would know more about him “as the week goes on.”