CHICAGO - Christian Ponder finally got the call Sunday night. The rookie quarterback saw his first NFL action in the fourth quarter of the Vikings' 39-10 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field.
It came in the strangest of circumstances -- with starter Donovan McNabb having one of his better outings of the season, yet with the Vikings trailing 39-10. Ponder played two series and went 9-for-17 for 99 yards, his longest completion a 23-yard dart to Greg Camarillo.
Whether this was a torch passing or just a rookie gaining experience in garbage time remains to be seen.
"I'm just grateful for the opportunity that Coach [Leslie Frazier] let me go in," Ponder said. "I thought I made some plays and I thought I missed a couple of throws. It's hard to have fun when you're losing that bad. But I was grateful."
McNabb, who said he expects to start next week against Green Bay, didn't seem to think the first-round draft pick's appearance foreshadowed a long-term benching.
"We're down 39-10, you take guys out," McNabb said. "[Adrian Peterson] came out. A lot of guys came out. The kid's got to get some reps."
This one hurts more
Peterson said Sunday's game felt different. And more painful than the first three weeks, when the Vikings blew halftime leads of 10, 17 and 20 points.
"It's always hard to lose when you're up," he said. "But to get dominated like we did tonight, in all phases, I would say it hurts a little more."
Facing eight- and nine-man fronts throughout the game, Peterson was stuffed, held to 39 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries (3.3-yard average).
"It comes with the territory," Peterson said of the extra attention at the line of scrimmage. "I know they're going to focus on stopping the run."
Although Peterson came in averaging 112 yards per game in seven meetings with the Bears, he has now been held to under 100 yards in four consecutive meetings. In his past two meetings with the Bears, Peterson has 90 yards rushing on 29 carries.
In the battle between two of the NFL's premier running backs, Chicago's Matt Forte held the advantage over Peterson. Forte had 123 total yards.
The Vikings finished Sunday without three starters, two of whom suffered concussions and will have to pass a medical exam, per rules of the collective bargaining agreement, before being allowed to practice and play.
Center John Sullivan and strong safety Jamarca Sanford suffered concussions, while right tackle Phil Loadholt had a knee injury. All three were injured in the third quarter and didn't return.
Joe Berger replaced Sullivan, while Pat Brown stepped in for Loadholt. As pretty much expected, the pass protection declined even further with two starters out.
Tyrell Johnson replaced Sanford.
Ponder wasn't the first backup quarterback to get into the game for the Vikings on Sunday. Late in the first quarter, Joe Webb replaced McNabb but wasn't able to jump-start the offense.
Out of the Wildcat formation on his first play, Webb handed to Peterson for a 4-yard gain. On the next play, Webb's pass to Percy Harvin along the right sideline sailed about 4 feet high and out of bounds.
Webb returned to the field late in the half to deliver a 1-yard run on a key third-and-4 play from the Bears 16.
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers was listed as doubtful because of a sprained medial collateral knee ligament but ended up starting Sunday night.
Perhaps it was Chicago coach Lovie Smith's way of returning the favor for last December's game at TCF Bank Stadium. Leslie Frazier, who was the interim Vikings coach at the time, listed Brett Favre as out two days before that game.
But Favre ended up starting the game. Favre was injured in what became his final NFL game.
Peppers recorded two sacks in the third quarter.
Bears nose tackle Stephen Paea, a rookie from Oregon State, was credited with the first-quarter sack of McNabb that gave Chicago a safety and a 9-0 lead. But if you're looking for the Vikings player who made the biggest error on the play, it was Sullivan, who whiffed on his attempt to block Paea right after the snap.
Peterson was late getting over to pick up Paea, and McNabb never really had a chance on the play.
Winfield out again
Antoine Winfield was inactive, missing his second consecutive game because of a neck strain. Chris Cook started again at left cornerback.