Benched last game, Christian Ponder will start for Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Leslie Frazier weighed the scenarios he’s become likely all too familiar with the past two months with the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterbacks.

After benching quarterback Christian Ponder in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss, Frazier had another decision on his hands as to his starter for Sunday’s game at Green Bay. He evaluated the position and made a decision, one he wishes he didn’t have to make time and time again this season.

“It’s not a lot of fun,” Frazier said Wednesday. “You’d like to say that this is your quarterback for 16 weeks but we haven’t been in that situation. You’ve got to do the things that you think you need to do to help your team be successful. You’d like to put that guy, pencil him into the lineup and say that’s the guy.”

Frazier would be wise to only use pencil these days, and have a good eraser nearby.

Through injury and performance, Frazier hasn’t had the luxury of sticking with one guy. He’s penciling in Ponder again this week, on Wednesday saying Ponder would start again Sunday, his fifth straight start. In the process, Frazier didn’t rule out doing a little editing to the depth chart in the future.

“I still believe at this point that Christian gives us the best chance to be successful on Sunday,” Frazier said. “And there may come a time where it’s (Josh Freeman’s) turn, but for this ballgame that’s the reason with Christian.”

Sunday will be Ponder’s fifth straight start and eight of the season through 11 games. Freeman hasn’t received another chance since his inauspicious debut Oct. 21 at New York when he was 20-of-53 passing.

Cassel, the year-long backup who started two games for Ponder when he was out with a fractured rib will be the backup again Sunday. Frazier has said in the past Cassel is not under consideration for a starting job and wouldn’t say if he’s part of the conversation now, instead choosing to focus on this Sunday and Ponder.

Frazier reiterated that he feels Ponder gives the Vikings the best chance to win Sunday.

“That’s how the decision was made regarding the starting quarterback,” Frazier said. “Then when it comes to Josh or Matt for future ballgames, you deal with it probably on Monday when we come back after this Green Bay game. You make a determination for the future. For now, we’ve really got to focus on getting this win against an NFC North opponent and getting the guy who’s starting in the best frame of mind to go out and play well.”

Ponder said he wasn’t surprised he was named the starter for Sunday, even after being benched against the Seahawks.

“I was operating under the assumption that I would be, unless I was talked otherwise,” Ponder said. “But I appreciate coach Frazier having the confidence in me to be able to go out this week and play.”

Ponder opened Sunday’s game with a lost fumble on his first dropback, but went 9-of-13 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown in the first half. In the second half, he was 4-of-9 passing for just 15 yards in the second half and was replaced by Cassel after throwing interceptions on back-to-back drives. Cassel then threw an interception on his first drive.

“Yeah, you know, that fourth quarter wasn’t what he would’ve liked or any of us would’ve liked,” Frazier said. “But this is where we are with the decision and we’re looking forward to him playing well.”

Ponder said the interceptions were “just bad decisions.” Both throws went right to a Seattle defender and one was returned for a touchdown.

“Just trying to make plays towards the end,” Ponder said. “We were down, trying to have that fourth-quarter comeback and just forced some things that weren’t there.”

In seven games, Ponder has 10 total touchdowns (six passing, four rushing) to go with nine interceptions and four lost fumbles. His 74.9 quarterback rating is 27th in the NFL and he’s 30th with 1,375 passing yards.

Ponder said he doesn’t focus on what might be some of his final chances to lay permanent claim to the position.

“There’s enough pressure going on in this position and if you start worrying about those things, it’s only to make it worse,” Ponder said. “And again, my future in my eyes doesn’t go past Sunday.”

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