Frazier sticking with Ponder as Vikings QB

The only passes from Christian Ponder that didn’t sail over a

receiver’s head or bounce harmlessly out of bounds seemed to land

in the arms of a Green Bay defender just as the Minnesota Vikings

were approaching the end zone.

At one point, the beleaguered quarterback went nearly 39 minutes

of game action without completing a pass, rendering moot another

breath-taking performance from Adrian Peterson.

Yet through all the struggles, all the poor footwork and all the

back-breaking mistakes that allowed a winnable road game against a

division opponent to swirl down the drain, coach Leslie Frazier

stuck with Ponder. And he sticks by him still.

Frazier said Monday he never considered pulling Ponder against

the Packers and believes he is the QB that gives the team the best

chance to win against Chicago this week.

”It hasn’t come up any time this season where I thought we

needed to pull him out of a game,” Frazier said. ”That hasn’t

occurred.”

Frazier acknowledged such unwavering support, whether solely his

decision or a result of a directive from the front office that

drafted Ponder in the first round last season, has the potential to

rankle other players in the locker room – players who seem to be

held to a different standard of accountability.

”I’ve thought about that a lot because when you’re struggling

at a position, the guys know how we talked about everybody doing

their jobs and why it’s important for us to have our success,”

Frazier said. ”You don’t want to send mixed messages at any

position.”

The Vikings led the Packers 14-10 at halftime, jumping on

Peterson’s broad shoulders to move into position for a commanding

lead early in the third quarter when Peterson ripped off a 48-yard

run to the Green Bay 12-yard line. Ponder was intercepted in the

end zone on the next play.

With Percy Harvin missing his third straight game, Ponder didn’t

complete a pass to a wide receiver until late in the fourth

quarter. The putrid air game allowed the Packers to weather a

210-yard day from Peterson and a shaky performance from their own

offense to drop the Vikings to 6-6.

Ponder’s struggles were so glaring that Frazier was asked

repeatedly Monday about his reluctance to play backup Joe Webb in

the second half. Webb has provided a spark periodically over the

past two seasons, including games at Philadelphia in 2010 and at

Washington last year.

Frazier has shown a willingness to rotate players during games

at other positions, including safety with Jamarca Sanford and

Mistral Raymond, and right guard with Brandon Fusco and Geoff

Schwartz. But the coach said Monday he approaches quarterback with

a different view, one that values continuity above all else.

”I think there’s something there where in my mind you don’t

want to get into a situation where you’re not sure who your No. 1

is,” Frazier said. ”We believe that Christian is our No. 1. …

That being said, if things get to a point where your No. 1 is

really costing you some situations that could preclude winning, you

do have to do what’s best for the football team.”

It’s getting harder for Frazier to argue that Ponder remains the

right choice for the Vikings. They started the season 5-2 thanks in

part to Ponder’s steady play, but have dropped four of the last

five while he has crumbled.

Ponder entered the fourth quarter Sunday with just five

completions in the game, all on one drive. He finished 12 of 25 for

119 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. In this

pass-happy era of the NFL, Ponder has actually thrown for 76 fewer

yards than Peterson has rushed for over the last six games.

For a team holding faint hopes for a playoff berth, the

imbalance to the offense has been the biggest reason for its recent

downfall.

The unwillingness to go to Webb, even temporarily, would seem an

indictment on the depth at the position. The Vikings cut veteran

Sage Rosenfels in favor of Webb and developmental quarterback

McLeod Bethel-Thompson, giving them three young and largely

unproven players at the game’s most important position.

Frazier said Monday the team is confident Webb would do well if

called upon. But he doesn’t see the need right now.

”We believe that Christian is going to continue to develop and

grow and be the quarterback that we all expect him to be,” Frazier

said. ”That being said, there’s a lot riding on this next ballgame

for our football team, and I’m sure there are a lot of guys looking

and wondering if we can get it done under the current situation. I

believe we can. I believe we’ll play better, not only at the

quarterback position but at other positions as well. We’ll need to

as a team.”

NOTES: Frazier said DE Jared Allen would get an MRI after having

back spasms, but expected him to be ready for the Bears. … C John

Sullivan has bruised ribs that are considered a minor injury, and

it’s still too early to say if Harvin’s sprained left ankle will be

ready to go this week.

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