Well fans, I had been projecting Christian Ponderís rollout for November, but here he is starting the second game of his rookie season the last Sunday in October. Various sissy commentators lamented that his first start would be vs. the Cheese last week, warning that the trauma he would undergo leading the Purple into such an abbatoire would haunt him into old age Ė mort de frommage, quelle horreur! Fortunately the lad showed a great deal more spunk than hoped for and nearly pulled off an upset for the ages.
Ponder displayed an instinctive pocket awareness, impressive mobility, elusiveness, and running ability, and a short to medium range passing accuracy. Perhaps more important, he seems to possess the poise under pressure that, alas, eludes his would-be mentor, Donovan McNabb. It is only one outing but Ponder, last Sunday, exhibited the stones of a field general. If he develops the downfield potential of an Aaron Rodgers he could be what the Purple multitudes have been pining for since Fran Tarkenton.
In Ponderís favor is the potent rushing attack, spearheaded by Adrian Peterson, which will make it less easy for opposing defenses to throw the various blitzes and confusing defensive looks against a rookie. Petersonís impressive yardage total Sunday showed what he is capable of if the passing offense can make the defense pay just a bit for loading up on the line of scrimmage. And this was only Ponderís first start. If he can build on what he learned and accomplished last Sunday, the Vikes could well end up splitting the rest of their schedule between wins and losses.
This prediction comes with a caveat, however. Veteran Vikings fans recognized a familiar pattern last Sunday, of one team expecting to win, and the other, wearing purple, to lose. After unexpectedly entering the second half with a lead, the Vikes quickly gave up a long TD on a busted coverage in a defense designed to protect against quick strikes. Then, special teams allowed a long punt return Ė fourteen points handed to the bad guys on a silver cheese platter. When the rookie QB wrenched the contest back to within one score late in the game, the world-beating Purple run defense gave up three first downs on the ground, almost all of it over their left side where they knew it would be coming. Shades of the old Green Bay power sweep right. One team found a way to win, the other a way to lose, and to paraphrase Vince Lombardi, these things become habits.
Why does this team continue to make stupid mistakes at the worst times Ė nine penalties for 91 yards against the Packers! Why do they continue to tolerate a culture in which a Bryant McKinnie comes to training camp too fat to play, and a cornerback , Chris Cook, desperately needed and finally beginning to achieve his potential, is up until 4AM Saturday before a big game, finally raising enough hell to land in jail where we assume he watched his teammates, decimated in the defensive backfield, lose to Green Bay.
Right now, the Vikes have a promising rookie QB who is not accustomed to losing. If Leslie Frazier and his coaching staff are not able to turn this losing Purple culture around quickly, Christian Ponder will soon learn to fit right in.