The Vikings have all but admitted that QB Christian Ponder shouldn't have played Sunday against the Lions. He tried to gut it out and in the end just wasn't physically ready for the situation.
You love the kid for wanting to play. His toughness was a big reason why the Vikings drafted Ponder No. 12 in April. But Ponder, whenever he is ready to rejoin the lineup, must cut down on his costly mistakes.
Two interceptions inside his own 20-yard line killed any chance of an upset over the Broncos. Four turnovers on Sunday cost his team 21 Lions points, including a pick-six TD return for the second straight game.
The fact that Joe Webb energized the Vikings on the road with his flashy running and a few crisp passes is almost immaterial. There is no quarterback controversy. This is merely a function of reversing an ugly trend. Ponder had three interceptions in his first three starts — an acceptable tally for a rookie — but now has 10 turnovers (eight INTs) in his past four games.
"I know the coaches are going to take a look at it with him today," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "What you don't want to do is make the same mistakes repeatedly because that begins to get a little worrisome.
"He is doing some good things to offset some of the errors. We have to continue to accentuate the positives that he is doing and try to eliminate some of the negatives. But I do think he is growing. I think (Sunday) was a part of the maturation process for him, and we will be better for it and he will be better for it in time."
Part of the problem clearly is the protection. And if the play calling is not assisting that lack of quality pass blocking, the blame goes onto Bill Musgrave's head, too. There also is a lack of quality targets to throw to, and Ponder clearly has felt the need to be extra fine with his throws. But no question the clock in his head must be sped up as well.
Part of what makes Ponder so likeable is that he is willing to hang tough, deliver throws under duress and take big hits. That kind of toughness goes over big in the locker room and film room after the game. It tells his teammates that winning is most important.
But turnover-happy quarterbacks don't win in this league. Ponder must adapt accordingly.