Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Posts about NFC

Christian and Tarvaris are the same quarterback

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: October 28, 2013 - 12:18 AM

Someone pointed this out in my Twitter feed in the late stages of the Vikings' blowout loss to Green Bay on Sunday night: At least quarterback Christian Ponder still was attempting to compete until the end of the no-contest, which is more than could be said for many of his teammates.

That's remindful of Daunte Culpepper in the infamous 41-donut loss in the NFC title game in January 2001. Culpepper still was trying in the fourth quarter, while everyone around him had long ago given in -- starting with Randy Moss from the opening snap.

The difference is, Daunte was a much more accurate thrower and much more decisive in his actions than Ponder. He had a few years as an elite NFL quarterback because of those qualities, as well as his mighty legs.

Ponder made his quarterback destiny obvious to all once again in the Metrodome. Ponder not only won't be elite; he won't be average.

His destiny is to become a journeyman, moving from team to team as a backup until he's 33, 34, and there's no longer such a job. His destiny is to go from the 12th overall choice and advertised franchise quarterback to Sage Rosenfels.

Ponder was 0-3 to start this season (his third), sat for the next three games, and returned for this 44-31 loss to the Packers. As was the case in the first three losses, the defense was the No. 1 cause of the Vikings' failure on Saturday, by a slight margin over Ponder.

The defense was so horrendous, in fact, that amateur lip readers were able to discern from a closeup that Jared Allen said, "I've never played on a defense this bad,'' as he stood on the sidelines in the fourth quarter and watched his defensive mates.

Then again, the collapse of that defense started with Aaron Rodgers buzzing two of the quickest, past-a-defender's-earhole shots in history for touchdowns -- one for a short TD to Jordy Nelson and another that became a long touchdown to Nelson.

Rodgers was fantastic. It made no difference that two of his three best wide receivers and his best tight end were unavailable. Rodgers has become what Tom Brady was for so long in New England: a quarterback who can make succulent chicken salad out of a receiving corps consisting of chicken feathers.

With Ponder, we no longer have to strain for the proper comparison. Forget that Rosenfels reference. Ponder absolutely is the second coming of Tarvaris Jackson.

As with Tarvaris, he's OK if the first place he looks there's an open receiver, and Christian's just peachy in garbage time against soft-playing defenses. But he's inept when facing the serious complications required to play the position at the major league level.

I can use that, right? Bert doesn't have it copyrighted, I hope.

Ponder's legs are fine. His arm strength is marginal. And his instincts are non-existent.

More than being unable to duplicate the Rodgers' throw that zinged past Josh Robinson's helmet as he oft-burned cornerback was turning to look for a football that was about to smack into Nelson's hands ... our guy Christian couldn't even have envisioned throwing that early to make such a connection possible.

Tarvaris was the Vikings' starter when healthy in his second season (12 starts in 2007), he was benched and then returned for a time in his third season, and then he became yesterday's news. He played for Seattle in 2011, only out of the Seahawks' desperation ... not with the idea that he actually could be their answer as a winning quarterback.

Jackson watched in Buffalo last season, and now he's back in Seattle, standing on the sideline as a caddy for Russell Wilson. He'll probably get a few more years of paychecks as a veteran backup, whether it's in Seattle or elsewhere.

If Ponder (26 next February) is curious amid the Vikings' quarterback chaos as to where his NFL career is headed, all he has to do is look where Tarvaris is as 30-year-old, bcause they are the same player.

Vikings had Browns right where they wanted 'em ...

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: September 22, 2013 - 9:53 PM

The Vikings spent the week describing this as a must-win game. If they couldn't win at home against the Cleveland Browns, it was almost a certainty that the season would be lost for the Purple.

The quarterback, in his second full season as a starter, had little to offer in the first half. There were boos for him and the Vikings as they left the field at halftime.

The Vikings increased the defensive intensity and the home team started to rally in the second half. Eventually, victory was there to be had, but it would take a well-arced heave to the end zone by the quarterback and maybe a lucky ricochet.

And there it was: the ball tipped perfectly into the hands of the veteran receiver, and he secured it, and the crowd responded madly, and the Must Win was just that for the Vikings.

Excuse me. You didn't think we were referring to Sunday's game vs. Cleveland Browns II at the Metrodome, where the Vikings came in 0-2 and would be dead in the water with a loss, did you?

Nope.

This was a recollection of the game with the original Cleveland Browns on Dec. 14, 1980, at Met Stadium. The Vikings at 8-6 and in need of a win to squeeze into the NFC playoff field. A loss would've sent them to Houston in need of a win against Earl Campbell and the Oilers in the regular-season finale.

The Browns led 13-0 at halftime. There were boos for quarterback Tommy Kramer and his mates.

The Vikings scored to open the second half, on a 31-yard pass from Kramer to Joe Senser, but Cleveland came back to make it 23-9 in the fourth quarter. That was the score into the final five minutes, when Kramer threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Ted Brown, and then a 12-yard TD to Ahmad Rashad.

There was no two-point attempt in 1980, so Rick Danmeier's PAT made it 23-22. By the time the Vikings got the ball back, there were14 seconds left and they had the ball at the 20 ... their 20.

No chance? That was never the case with team coached by Bud Grant, who already had been dubbed "Horseshoe Harry'' by a smart-alecky St. Paul sports columnist, in honor of the luck that Bud's boys seemed to find.

On the first play, Bud ordered his favorite late-gamer -- the hook-and-ladder. Kramer made a quick throw to tight end Senser, halfback Brown came scooting past to take a pitch, and it went for 35 yards. That gave the Vikings one shot (4 seconds on the clock) from Cleveland's 45.

Kramer arced the ball toward the end zone, Cleveland safety Thom Darden and Vikings receiver Terry LeCount battled for it, and it went to Rashad on a rebound. Ahmad corraled the football and the Vikings had a 28-23 victory and a place in the playoffs.

They lost the regular-season finale in Houston 20-16, and then lost to Philadelphia's first Super Bowl team, 31-16, in a playoff opener.

On Sunday, Christian Ponder, in his second season as the starting quarterback, had one heave toward the end zone that could have reversed the Browns' 31-27 lead, and it was knocked down. On with the final gasp, Ponder was swallowed up by defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (a guy from Harvard) for a sack, and that was it.

No final play heave to the end zone. No fortunate ricochet. No "Miracle Catch.'' And a lost season with 81 percent of the schedule remaining.

Role models for Tubby & the Underachievers

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: March 17, 2013 - 10:40 AM

I have no real hope that Mike Bobinski, the chairman of the NCAA men’s basketball selection committee, will accept my heart-felt plea published Friday to keep the Gophers out of the tournament when the 68-team field is announced this evening.

Every forecast tells us that Tubby and the Underachievers will get a shot, even with 11 losses in the past16 games, and with a stretch of play since late January that has caused many of this state's basketball fans to re-evaluate their winter sports passion and become hard-core puckheads.

It would not be so offensive to see the Gophers advance, without the knowledge that Tubby Smith – coming off the poorest U of M coaching performance since Ozzie Cowles was wearing his bowtie – will be in line for a $100,000 bonus when Minnesota’s place in the bracket is announced tonight.

Perhaps Coach Smith could make things right by donating the 100 grand to a new charity, such as Restore Ruined Rims. That’s it – RRR, a fund to put up new baskets with better rims, starting with all those destroyed by Tubby’s gang of clankers over the last seven weeks of Big Ten play.

There is a role model in Minnesota’s sports history for these Gophers, when permitted this unearned opportunity later this week. That team would be Denny Green’s 1997 Vikings.

This is Smith’s sixth season in Minnesota and he has yet to get a win in the NCAA tournament. Green was in his sixth season in 1997 and had been 0-4 in playoff games.

Smith’s team was flying high and ranked as high as eighth in the country, then went from 15-1 to the current 20-12. Green’s '97 team was 8-2, then lost five straight. Finally, the Vikings beat lowly Indianapolis in the season finale before a far-below capacity crowd in the Dome, to crawl on their bellies into the playoffs at 9-7.

The Vikings went to Giants Stadium for a playoff game on Dec. 27. The Giants were 10-5-1 and had won the NFC East under first-year coach Jim Fassel. They had lost only twice since the end of September.

The Vikings’ chances had looked much better in Green’s four previous playoff games – particularly the horrendous 35-18 loss to the Bears and backup quarterback Steve Walsh on Jan. 1, 1995 in the Metrodome.

There was speculation that another playoff loss might get Green fired. Denny must have felt that way, too. It was before that game he gave the interview to his media pal Andrea Kremer that a cabal of three Twin Cities sports columnists was working in concert with a Vikings official to get him fired.

Green never named the suspects, although I did write a column saying I knew Dan Barreiro, Bob Sansevere and Tom Powers to be fine gentlemen and honorable journalists who would never engage in such a thing.

The game went along as anticipated, as the Giants jumped to a 16-0 lead and were in front 19-3 at halftime.

Tiki Barber’s fumble at his 4 gave the Vikings a touchdown and some life in the second half. Still, it was 22-13 after a Giants field goal with seven minutes left. Viking fans were screaming at their TVs when Green ordered a punt to end the next possession.

The Vikings did get the ball back and Randall Cunningham hit Jake Reed with a 30-yard touchdown pass with under two minutes left.

The Vikings recovered an onside kick. Cunningham hit Cris Carter for a 21-yard gain. Cornerback Philippi Sparks, who had been seen screaming at Barber after the fumble, was called for pass interference.

Eddie Murray was left with a chip-shot field goal from 24 yards to win the game, 23-22. Minutes later, Denny would credit his decision to punt and other brilliant coaching maneuvers to this first playoff victory.

It was a job saver and, obviously, a cabal killer, since Denny wouldn’t answer postgame questions about his wonderfully wacky interview with Ms. Kremer.

Truth be told, Coach Smith's interviews aren’t the easiest to decipher these days, either, but if Tubby and the Underachievers do get an NCAA win after this freebie from the committee, we’ll let him follow Green’s example of taking all the credit and not complain.

      

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