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Monday (That was the best- and worst-case game for the Vikings) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Vikings Updated: December 10, 2012 - 10:23 AM

We thought, for a while, that the Vikings' 24-13 victory over the 49ers earlier this year was the blueprint for how this team wanted to play. But now we know better. In that game, QB Christian Ponder threw the ball 35 times and was the model of efficiency doing so. He was helped by 25 Adrian Peterson carries and a stout Vikings defense.

No, the real blueprint was yesterday. Ponder only had to try 17 passes, a good number of which traveled about as far in the air as a pass from you to the guy two cubicles away. Ponder hasn't completed a pass to a wide receiver for more than 18 yards in the past three games.

And that's exactly how Leslie Frazier wants it right now.

"We won the way we're designed to win," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We talk all the time to our team about what Viking ball is, and today was a perfect example of it."

A team can win that way -- sometimes. It could win like that against the Bears on Sunday, when Adrian Peterson and the defense staked the Vikings to a 14-0 lead and really accounted for all 21 points.

It was the perfect game for Frazier Ball, but in the grand scheme of things it might have been the worst-case scenario. In a game with big-time implications -- one the Vikings absolutely had to have if they were going to entertain the notion still that they are playoff contenders -- we learned nothing about whether Ponder can be the QB to win such games (or, if you want to be more negative, the things we learned about him Sunday continued his recent downward and doubtful arc).

He was asked to manage a game, and he did that with modest success -- converting a few big third downs and staying out of trouble except for one deep interception. But he still wound up with just 91 yards passing and a Total QBR rating of 25.3 (average: 50). It had the feel, at many times, of winning in spite of him. That's certainly how it felt to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, who wrote this:

What has to be bothersome for Lovie Smith is his defense could not prevail despite an anemic effort from the Vikings' Christian Ponder, as bad a starting quarterback as there is in the league.

That's a bit harsh, but that's the view from the outside. The Vikings are maybe a year early in terms of being relevant this late in the season, and that's only making the QB situation more glaring. The best-case scenario for the Vikings in the final three games wouldn't, in our mind, be winning with their preferred formula; rather, it would be winning when Ponder had to be more than just an afterthought.

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