There were under 11 minutes remaining in Sunday's game at the Metrodome when Matt Cassel's overthrow of Greg Jennings gave the quarterback his second interception of the afternoon. Carolina made a short drive after that to put its lead at 35-3.
Thousands already had revolved through the Dome's doors and into the autumn sun before this interception. It became a stampede for the exits once Cassel threw the interception.
There were only stragglers remaining when the Vikings' offense returned with 7:40 remaining. And here came Cassel back to huddle, an act by coach Les Frazier that offered a message so clear that it could have been offered over the public address system:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the Minnesota Vikings and the entire Wilf family would like to announce that we came into this game with no intention -- barring injury -- of allowing Christian Ponder on the field. We didn't want Christian to come in, look good in garbage time and have to put up with the 'Did we give up on him too soon?' nonsense.
"We just want the Ponder experiment to be over with, so we're going to allow Cassel to finish this mess that he helped create. Thank you.''
Cassel couldn't have played worse if he was ... well, Ponder at his worst ... on Sunday, and yet even in a situation where Tom Brady would've gotten the hook, there wasn't as much as a nod in Ponder's direction on the home sideline.
It's official, even if the Vikings wait a few days into next week to make it so:
Josh Freeman will start next Monday night against the 0-6 New York Giants, and Ponder has as much chance to be the future of the Vikings at quarterback (this season or beyond) as Tarvaris Jackson did after Brett Favre came to town in 2009.