KANSAS CITY, MO. - All over Twitter and in bars and living rooms across the Twin Cities, Christian Ponder has quickly become a household name, a backup quarterback with a legion of fans begging for his promotion.
After Sunday's 22-17 Vikings loss in Kansas City, a stumble that produced an 0-4 record one month into the season, Ponder's popularity is now being threatened only by Stanford's Andrew Luck.
He's the can't-miss NFL future star that the most desperate of Vikings fans now hope to have a shot at in next April's draft.
But for now, coach Leslie Frazier is sticking with his man, stating that Donovan McNabb likely will remain his starter next week against Arizona. Though it is worth noting that Frazier's declaration Sunday afternoon was far from definitive.
"We're not in a situation -- I don't think -- where we would make a quarterback change," he said. "We'll go back and look at this tape, look at every position and see what we can do to help every position play better than we played today."
McNabb was decent if somewhat inconsistent Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. He was 18-for-30 passing for 202 yards, including touchdown strikes to Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins. But he also committed the game's only turnover, a second-quarter interception on a wild screen toss to fullback Toby Gerhart.
Plus, with the game in his hands in the final 4 minutes, McNabb once again failed to deliver a game-winning drive. He misfired on his final four passes, all from the Chiefs 41 with the Vikings trying to rally.
"It's frustrating that again we have to go back to doing the same things we've been doing so far," he said afterward. "And that's finding solutions."
McNabb's early interception definitely hurt. It came with the Vikings ahead 7-3 and gathering momentum offensively. An impressive 10-play drive had taken the Vikings from their own 19 to the Kansas City 20. But then on the 11th play of the series, McNabb rushed a pass to Gerhart, who put a finger or two on the high toss, deflecting it to Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr.
Instead of taking control of the game, the Vikings instead watched Kansas City march the other way for a field goal.
"Just put it a little too high," McNabb said of the pick.
Added Gerhart: "I wish I would have made that play. You're in the red zone, you want to come away with points. Worst-case scenario, we should get a field goal. To have them seize momentum there, it's deflating."
McNabb's finish to the afternoon was even more deflating, his four consecutive incompletions neatly encapsulating the season to date.
The first two throws were batted down near the line of scrimmage. The third, with McNabb pressured and on the run, skipped into the shins of receiver Bernard Berrian.
McNabb's final toss toward tight end Visanthe Shiancoe sailed out of bounds.
With a chance to deliver Minnesota its first victory of 2011, McNabb instead allowed the Ponder and Luck chatter to elevate.