Without much consistent offense, there weren't a lot of records broken or even threatened, but…
Finish may have solidified Ponder's role
Ponder was a late scratch for the divisional playoff game against Green Bay on Saturday night, leaving the Vikings offense in the hands of backup Joe Webb, an intriguing athlete that many impatient fans were clamoring for earlier in the season when Ponder was struggling.
In his first extended action of the season, Webb delivered a dreadful performance in a 24-10 loss at Lambeau Field that ended Minnesota's surprising season. He completed just 11 of 30 passes for 180 yards, one touchdown and one interception while Ponder watched from the sideline because of a bruised triceps muscle in his throwing arm.
"It was tough," Ponder said after the game. "Obviously, the whole team has been through a lot and for us to get our first playoff experience and everything it was tough. But we've just got to look forward to next year and hopefully we're going to have more opportunities to do it. I've just got to work my butt off to get back here."
It seems more certain than ever that Ponder will be the guy again when next year rolls around, which wasn't always the case in a rocky first full season as the man. Ponder started out strong during the team's 5-2 start, but struggled mightily during a stretch of four losses in five games that threatened to waste star running back Adrian Peterson's remarkable comeback season. The fans started to turn on him, booing him at the Metrodome and flooding talk radio shows with calls for the supremely athletic Webb to get a shot.
Ponder went six straight weeks with a completion percentage below 55 and three times failed to hit the 100-yard mark, turning the Vikings into a one-dimensional offense that relied almost solely on Peterson's individual brilliance.
But with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, Ponder finally started to respond. He completed nearly 71 percent of his throws in a win at St. Louis on Dec. 16, avoided the big mistakes in a win at Houston the following week and came up with his best game as a pro in the biggest game of the season — 234 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Green Bay that go the Vikings into the playoffs.
Ponder badly wanted to try to build on that momentum and the confidence he gained by winning a shootout with Aaron Rodgers at the Metrodome, but his arm just wouldn't cooperate. He tried to get it loose all week and even tested it out on Saturday morning before determining that he could not make the throws he needed to make.
Neither could Webb.
In a curious offensive strategy, the Vikings only ran the read option a few times during the game and mostly on the first drive, instead asking Webb to essentially be Ponder by dropping back and running a more conventional passing offense. Webb's passes often missed Vikings receivers by several yards, which allowed the Packers to load up at the line of scrimmage to contain Peterson.
"There are a lot of plays I would like to have back," Webb said. "I haven't touched the field since August, that's no excuse. I feel our team really came here expecting a victory and Green Bay is a great team and a tough team at home. It was a great learning experience."
If anything, the performance showed how much better the Vikings offense is when Ponder is taking the snaps, and may have given him an even stronger standing in the locker room, and with the fans.
It also illustrated the glaring need for a capable backup. Ponder battled injuries in college at Florida State and in his first two seasons in the NFL. The Vikings have also been developing McLeod Bethel-Thompson. But they could be in the market this offseason for a quality veteran as well who can step in and run the offense that Ponder runs all season, rather than having a second-stringer like Webb, who has a vastly different skill set and needs major adjustments to the system to have a chance to be effective.
"We mixed some of those read-options along the way," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "But at some point you would like to complete some passes. Early on we did have them off-balance and had some opportunities in the passing game, but we just couldn't connect."
21 ARRESTED AT GAME
Green Bay police arrested 21 people at the Packers' NFC wildcard playoff game versus the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.
WLUK-TV reports it's the highest arrest total this season.
Of those arrested, eight were for unlawful conduct, three for unlawful conduct and trespassing, and three for unlawful conduct and resisting. Two were arrested for unlawful conduct and battery. Three other people were arrested for underage drinking. One person was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting. Another person was arrested for drug possession.
Police haven't said yet how many people were ejected from the game.
SaintsInsider.com Recommended Stories
2015 NFL Mock Draft 1.0
We're at the halfway mark of the NFL season, so here's our first crack at a mock draft. Hey, Oakland Raiders, you're on the clock!Read More
Updated 2017 Top 50
In early July, Scout.com introduced a 2017 top 15. After spending time watching sophomores during the July evaluation periods and in the fall, it's time to extend that list to a top 50. DeAndre Ayton,…Read More
Fish Backwaters to Beat Tough Fall River Bite
If you're having a tough time catching bass this fall on your favorite river, you might want to read this tutorial from Bassmaster Pro Stephen Browning. Browning has won a lot of money fishing rivers…Read More
Mad’s World: Giants Ride Bumgarner To Title
It's a rare series when a starting pitcher truly has the biggest influence of any player on the field. But in the 2014 World Series, San Francisco Giants' left-hander Madison Bumgarner clearly was the…Read More
How the CFB Playoff Will Look in December
With the first rankings released, we project the rest of the season and predict the final four...Read More
- Saints sending Jahri Evans to Buffalo ? ? ?
- 7 Saints who shined in win over Packers
- Remember When?
- Saints open as underdog for Thursday night game at Panthers
- Saints need to prove they can win on road against Panthers