CHICAGO - Yes, Christian Ponder had another bad outing in a game the Vikings lost.
Yes, he talked -- again -- about his tendency to "hold the ball too long" and how his latest interception -- his ninth of the season -- is a reminder that he needs to learn "not to force the ball downfield."
And, yes, he also talked about having thick skin; being his own worst critic; needing to stay in the pocket; not making enough plays and, of course, "not giving the fans much to cheer about."
But Sunday's 28-10 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field goes beyond Ponder's 51.2 completion percentage, 159 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a miserable 58.2 passer rating that was his third-worst mark of the season.
Ponder needed more help. He needed receivers not to drop the ball.
That's essentially what sullen receiver Jerome Simpson said barely above a whisper in the losing locker room.
"It wasn't the offense, it was me," said Simpson, who had three of what was at least five dropped passes by the Vikings on Sunday. "I was terrible. I didn't make the plays I was supposed to. I just let the team down."
Simpson's first drop came on third-and-4 at the Chicago 22-yard line with 12 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first quarter. The Vikings had just taken possession of the ball at the Bears 28 when linebacker Chad Greenway recovered a Matt Forte fumble on Chicago's first offensive snap.
Ponder threw the perfect slant pass, but it went through Simpson's hands and fell incomplete.
"I'm pretty sure it could have been a different game if I catch that ball," Simpson said. "You're trying to get first downs, so it makes a difference."
Simpson would have gotten at least a first down. At best, he could have scored. Instead, the Vikings settled for a 40-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead after moving the ball only 6 yards in three plays.
Simpson's other drops came late in the third quarter on a drive that ended on downs at the Chicago 8 early in the fourth quarter. Overall, Simpson caught just one of five balls thrown his way for 1 yard.
That's hardly the help Ponder was expecting when the Vikings signed Simpson to a one-year free-agent deal this past offseason. Simpson came in as a potential No. 1 receiver with tremendous upside. Now, with just 12 catches for 138 yards, no touchdowns, three games missed because of a suspension and another missed because of a leg injury, he could be looking at the final five weeks of his Vikings career.
Ponder tried to take the blame for the drops, which also included one by tight end John Carlson and one by receiver Stephen Burton. He also said he's not ready to give up on Simpson.
"Jerome is a heck of a player," Ponder said. "Obviously, we've seen him do tremendous things. I have to keep trying to get the ball to him and let him make plays. He is going to have a huge impact on this team, and we're going to keep coming to him."
Simpson said he's not giving up either.
"I'm frustrated because we lost and the game that I had," he said. "I don't think I've ever had this many drops in a game before. I just got to focus. I always find a way to refocus."
Clearly, coach Leslie Frazier expects Simpson to refocus ASAP.
"That's why you're a wide receiver in the NFL," he said. "You've got to catch the ball."