SEATTLE – The Vikings’ season-long game of musical chairs at quarterback deteriorated into a comedy of errors that made a mockery of the forward pass on a blustery Sunday afternoon.
In a stretch that defined the organization’s glaring deficiencies at the most important position, Vikings quarterbacks threw interceptions on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter of a 41-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
That’s right, three in a row. Two by Christian Ponder and one by Matt Cassel, who replaced Ponder after he tossed a pick-six for his third turnover of the game.
To add insult to that embarrassment, the Seahawks sent in former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson for mop-up duty.
The Vikings’ interception trifecta turned a relatively competitive game into a laugher that could result in yet another quarterback change. The Seahawks (10-1) converted four takeaways into 20 points, 17 of those coming on Ponder’s mistakes.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a number of times in that fourth to let the game get away from us,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “Disappointing in a lot of ways.”
The Vikings (2-8) trailed 24-13 entering the fourth quarter, but Ponder imploded in a bang-bang sequence that could cost him his starting job for the second time this season.
On his first interception, Ponder threw 5 feet wide of Adrian Peterson on a dump-off pass to gift-wrap an interception for linebacker Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks scored on Marshawn Lynch’s 6-yard touchdown catch.
On the next possession, Ponder badly underthrew Cordarrelle Patterson into the waiting arms of Walter Thurmond, who returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.
“I’m not sure why that last throw was where it was,” Frazier said.
Frazier had seen enough at that point and brought in Cassel. But Cassel’s second pass attempt was tipped and intercepted by defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. Seattle turned that takeaway into a field goal and a 41-13 lead.
“Turnovers definitely stop you in your tracks,” Peterson said.
In this case, those turnovers might cause the coaching staff to take another spin on the wheel of quarterbacks. Frazier said his staff will meet Monday to discuss who will start at Green Bay.
Josh Freeman was inactive for the fourth time since the team signed him Oct. 8. At some point, the Vikings need to give Freeman another shot to gather a full evaluation of him now that he presumably is more comfortable with the system.
Ponder actually played a solid first half against a tough Seahawks defense, but his game-ending mistakes might necessitate another demotion.
“I want to be out on the field,” Ponder said. “I want to get out there against Green Bay and try and forget this one and move forward and kind of redeem myself.”
Ponder’s performance would have looked even worse had Wagner not dropped an easy pick-six in the third quarter. Afterward, Ponder seemed at a loss for words over why he completely fell apart.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll have to see the film to see what happened. I’ll see a couple of poor decisions that gave them the football.”
The Vikings interception parade came on the same day that their former star receiver Percy Harvin made his Seahawks debut after missing the first 10 games following hip surgery. Harvin hugged a number of his former teammates, coaches and team employees during early warmups. Then he provided several Percy plays.
His first catch was highlight-worthy. Russell Wilson lobbed a pass over Chris Cook’s head and Harvin tipped the ball to himself for a 17-yard catch.
Harvin changed the game with his first kickoff return for the Seahawks late in the first half. After Blair Walsh’s 45-yard field goal with 48 seconds left cut Seattle’s lead to 17-13, the Vikings decided to kick it deep to Harvin, who fielded it 4 yards deep in the end zone. A Pro Bowl returner with the Vikings, Harvin gave his new team a glimpse of his magic with a 58-yard runback.
The Seahawks capitalized on that field position as Wilson threaded a perfect pass to Doug Baldwin with two Vikings defenders draped on him for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining.
Frazier defended his decision to put the ball in Harvin’s hands.
“We thought we could cover the kick,” Frazier said. “We didn’t, and they ended up with great field position and ended up scoring. Big sequence.”
Big, yes, but not anything compared to what happened at the start of the fourth quarter when the Vikings went pick-pick-pick. And now their quarterback quandary continues.