Christian Ponder finally got the call Sunday. The rookie quarterback saw his first NFL action in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Bears. Yet it came in the strangest of circumstances – with starter Donovan McNabb (19-for-24, 177 yards) having one of his better outings of the season yet with the Vikings trailing 39-10. Ponder played two series and went 9-for-17 for 99 yards, his longest completion a 23-yard dart to Greg Camarillo.
Yet whether this was a torch passing or just a rookie gaining experience in garbage time remains to be seen.
“I'm just grateful for the opportunity that Coach let me go in,” Ponder said. “I thought I made some plays and I thought I missed a couple of throws. It's hard to have fun when you're losing that bad. But I was grateful.”
Starter Donovan McNabb, who said he expects to start next week against Green Bay, didn’t seem to think Ponder’s appearance foreshadowed a long-term benching.
“We’re down 39-10, you take guys out,” McNabb said. “[Adrian Peterson] came out. A lot of guys came out. The kid’s got to get some reps.”
Head coach Leslie Frazier was far more vague with his assessment of what to do at quarterback going forward, saying the team would evaluate a lot of things Monday. As for McNabb’s evaluation of Ponder’s play?
“I thought he did a great job,” McNabb said. “Obviously, you kind of hate for him to get in that situation. But I thought he handled it well. He did a great job moving the guys downfield. He saw a great deal of game situations.”
McNabb spoke to Ponder on the sideline after the change and reminded the young quarterback to relax.
“As a rookie, you want things to happen now,” McNabb said. “He was able to get into a little bit of a rhythm. And when they got some pressure on him, he was able to use his legs and pick up some yards that way. I thought he did a great job.”
Now, with the Vikings at 1-5, Frazier faces a major decision on whether to invest in the future and start Ponder going forward or to stick with McNabb, an aging veteran on a struggling team with no hopes of making the playoffs. The situation will be interesting at Winter Park this week.
The game story is here.
Mark's story on the defense is here.
Our notebook is here.