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Three-and-out: Bears at Vikings

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • December 5, 2012 - 9:47 PM
What a week Christian Ponder is having. News broke late Monday that the Vikings quarterback had popped the question to his girlfriend, ESPN reporter Samantha Steele. It's now confirmed: Steele is officially Ponder's fiancée. Then on Tuesday, Ponder made a cameo at Oltman Middle School in St. Paul as the show-and-tell guest of sixth-grader Cala Boesel. That came less than 48 hours after Ponder delivered a woeful effort in the Vikings' 23-14 loss in Green Bay -- which had to make Boesel's presentation a harder sell. But wait, there's more. As the Vikings prepare to host Chicago, here's a trio of other things you should know.

1. The Vikings are not eager to see Brandon Marshall again.

As consternation infects the Twin Cities regarding the Vikings' quarterback struggles and their lack of playmaking receivers, the Bears boast one of the most potent passing tandems in the NFL. Jay Cutler has thrown Marshall's way 125 times this season -- that's 40 percent of his pass attempts -- and completed 83 for 1,075 yards and seven touchdowns.

Best of all for Chicago, Marshall is often tightly covered, yet his strong hands and body positioning allow Cutler to be bold with his throws.

The Vikings saw that two weeks ago when many of Marshall's 12 catches came amid blanket coverage.

"It can be frustrating when you've got guys draped over him like we did," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "But we just couldn't figure out a way to get the ball out, knowing they were going to force it into his hands."

Added cornerback A.J. Jefferson: "He's such a big-bodied guy. I never felt threatened by his speed. He's not going to outrun me. But he has an ability to box people out and get in front of you, like a basketball-type guy. I had my hand on a few of his catches. Unfortunately, my one against his two is rarely going to win."

With 91 total catches, Marshall is well aware he's just 10 short of breaking Marty Booker's single-season franchise record. That's the way he's wired, always conscious of how his production measures up.

In Week 12 against the Vikings, Marshall surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the sixth consecutive season and made sure to remind Cutler of that feat during the game.

"You're disgusting," Cutler responded with a laugh.

2. The Vikings still believe Ponder is a clear-cut winner over Joe Webb in the quarterback pecking order.

Asked about the ongoing assessment of Webb and what his biggest weaknesses were, Frazier skillfully packaged his response, expressing confidence in Webb as a backup without detailing his flaws.

Certainly, Webb's inaccuracy as a passer is a concern. There's also a belief that his potency diminishes when defenses have time to prepare for him.

Plus, Ponder won the job outright.

"He did a good job in the OTAs," Frazier said, "and the things he did in training camp let us know he was the guy that needed to be the starting quarterback. Nothing against what Joe's done."

As for whether Frazier has full authority to choose his quarterback, that's a slightly trickier topic. It's clear General Manager Rick Spielman believed Ponder deserved a comprehensive evaluation this season -- through good times and bad. It's a philosophy Frazier accepted and agreed with.

But certainly the organization's dedication to Ponder also makes it a tad more complicated to pull the plug -- even if it's only for a few possessions.

Still, Frazier has asserted he's the guy with that say.

"Similar to what I had to do a year ago in Detroit [in replacing Ponder with Webb]," Frazier said. "I can make those changes during the course of a game without having to get that red phone and get a call to New York."

3. Several Vikings might want to start formulating itineraries for Honolulu.

With an NFL-best 1,446 rushing yards, it's safe to ink Adrian Peterson into the Pro Bowl.

As of Wednesday, three other Vikings were also the leading NFC vote-getters at their respective positions: Jared Allen at defensive end, Matt Kalil at offensive tackle and Percy Harvin as a kick returner.

Cornerback Antoine Winfield is probably the next most likely Viking to get an invite.

Pro Bowl voting will end Monday night. Rosters will be announced Dec. 26.

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