Losing on the road to a Lions team that figured to be improved this season is not, by itself, anything to really panic about if you’re a Vikings fan, and neither, I suppose, is the fact that the Vikings were pretty much terrible all around. Every team has a bad game here and there, and some teams come out of the gate stronger than others.
Virtually everything about the Vikings was terrible.
Adrian Peterson ran 78-yards for a touchdown on the first play of the season, which was almost surreal coming off the season he had last year, but he did little the rest of the game. Yes, the O-line had a lot to do with that, and so did the struggles of the passing game (more on that in a sec), but I hope the guy will finally quit blabbing to anyone with a microphone how many yards he’s going to rush for this season. There’s as good a chance of me finishing the season as the Packers defensive coordinator as there is of Peterson rushing for 2,500. I’ll take 1,500.
The defense didn’t do anything. The highlight was an Erin Henderon interception that came immediately following a Vikings interception, and it was basically a fluke play on a batted ball.
Outside of that, there was little pass rush, poor coverage in the secondary and a seeming lack of preparedness for Reggie Bush.
The Lions moved the ball at will. They were only stopped when they stopped themselves.
And then, of course, there’s Christian Ponder.
More of the same.
This was Christian Ponder being Christian Ponder. It was the exact same kinda-promising, mostly-bad, what-the-hell-was-that performance he offered so many times last season.
The first INT he threw was not his fault, bouncing off the hands of Jerome Simpson and returned for a TD — which was hilariously negated when Ndamokung Suh committed an incredibly stupid and unnecessary penalty on the return.
The second INT was really bad, and while Ponder was obviously trying to get the ball out of bounds, the INT was so easy to see coming it was almost like the play happened in slow motion.
No, don’t do it.
No, don’t do it.
Oh, no, he did it. Hopefully it makes it out of bounds.
It doesn’t look like it’s going to make it out of bounds.
That looks like it’s gonna get intercepted.
Still, the Vikings managed to survive that awful turnover, and Ponder settled into a short groove, making some nice throws toward the sideline and a nice deep ball down the middle to Simpson.
Obviously he had the benefit of the fact that the Lions were practically putting nine in the box, but at one point Ponder was 12-for-17 for 191 yards. That’s pretty good. He had a chance to finish strong and go into Week 2 with a performance he could build on. And with the Lions having built a two-score lead, he was going to get a chance to throw it.
Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete.
They got the ball back, and inexplicably threw a bunch of wasteful dump passes until there was basically no time left for a comeback, and then Ponder threw another INT.
He finished 18-for-28 for 236 yards with 1 TD and 3 INT.
The completion percentage is solid, and the increased yards per attempt/completion are encouraging. But even if you were to for some reason ignore the interceptions, look around at the stats being put up by other QBs on Sunday.
Matt Stafford: 28-43, 357 yards, 2TD, INT
Matt Ryan: 25-38, 304, 2 TD, INT
Andrew Luck: 18-23, 178 yards, 2TD
Ryan Tannehill: 24-38, 272 yards, TD, INT
EJ Manuel: 18-27, 150 yards, 2 TD
Jay Cutler: 21-33, 242 yards, 2 TD, INT
Andy Dalton: 26-33, 282 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Geno Smith: 24-38, 256 yards, TD, INT
Russell Wilson: 25-33, 320 yards, TD
Alex Smith: 21-34, 173 yards, 2 TD
Carson Palmer: 26-40, 327 yards, 2 TD, INT
Sam Bradford: 27-38, 299 yards, 2 TD, INT
I didn’t bother to include Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers because no one is asking Ponder to be those guys. Even his biggest supporters know he’ll never be that.
But look at the above list. Sure, there are some second-tier Pro-Bowlers in Ryan, Stafford, and Cutler, but for the most part these are young up-and-comers who are more or less supposed to be Ponder’s peers. They all played better than him.
Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert and Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden might be the only QBs who had a worse game than Ponder this week.
It’s absolutely true that Ponder has had poor receivers to work with so far in his career, and there were some faint signs Sunday that the passing game will at least be more of a downfield threat this year with the addition of Greg Jennings and the apparent resurgence of Simpson.
But for all the talk about Ponder’s ‘growth’ and ‘development’, etc., the bottom line is he’s just not that accurate of a passer. His problems are not mental or related to a lack of experience. He’s just not executing. He has the arm strength. He definitely has the athleticism (most Vikings fans would rather see him run than throw). He’s a smart guy and the criticisms of his decision-making are mostly overrated. He just has to make the damn throws.
Sunday, and for most of his NFL career, he hasn’t made the damn throws. And if the majority of Ponder’s teammates are going to be as bad this year as they were Sunday, this team is going to be in prime position to draft his replacement in April.