As far as debuts as a starter go, Christian Ponder had some good, some bad and some ugly – as would be expected from a rookie. His day was erratic, but one that, despite a less than auspicious completion percentage, left fans optimistic heading into the future.
He completed just 13 of 32 passes for 219 yards and a passer rating of 59.2. He struggled at times, but, by the same token, made some plays that had been missing from the Vikings offense much of the season. Still, as the quarterback of the present and future, Ponder took the blame for the loss, even though nobody else pinned the blame his way.
"I made some mistakes personally that were crucial and I put this loss on me," Ponder said. "The players around me played extremely well and kept me in it. I'm truly proud of the guys around me and very fortunate to have such good teammates."
His career as a starter couldn't have been more explosive from the get-go. His first pass was a gem. On a called play to take advantage of the Packers' defensive aggression, Ponder launched a bomb to Michael Jenkins, who pulled in the pass and was brought down after a 72-yard gain. One play later, Ponder threw his first career touchdown on a pass to Visanthe Shiancoe.
He had his struggles and admitted he had a difficult time sleeping Saturday night, as the butterflies in his stomach turned into condors. He was on the field three hours before game time getting loose while other teammates were still arriving at the Metrodome.
While he said nerves weren't a problem during the game, he said he understood the problems he was having and said he was receiving a lot of encouragement from his teammates, including deposed starter Donovan McNabb, to keep his head up and not let his mistakes get the better of him.
"I knew this was going to be a four-quarter game and if I go in the tank, you might as well chalk it up as a loss," Ponder said. "I knew that, as a quarterback, you have to have a short memory. There are learning experiences that you have to go through."
Ponder's low point came in the third quarter. After playing a solid first half, he didn't complete any of his five passes to his teammates, but two have his passes were caught by Packers cornerback Charles Woodson – both of which set up scores in a 20-0 scoring barrage by the Packers in the third quarter.
"He undercut both of them," Ponder said. "Watching film of him during the week, I saw him do it. I should have picked up on it and thrown the ball over his head. Again, it's a learning experience that I will learn from."
Perhaps the most encouraging part of Ponder's first start was, with his team down and almost out, he led them on a 93-yard drive that included three conversions on third down, leading to a 24-yard touchdown to Jenkins. It gave Ponder, his teammates, his coaches and Vikings fans something to build on moving forward, but, in his mind, his day wasn't a success because it didn't lead to a victory.
"The ultimate deciding factor is whether you get the win or not," Ponder said. "I didn't get the win and the loss is on my shoulders. I'm not happy about it. I did some OK things. I did some bad things. I've just got to learn from it."
While not the greatest artistic success, Ponder made enough positive plays that his debut as a starter will be remembered for the good things more than the negatives, which is likely what the coaching staff was looking for.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Ponder puts loss on his shoulders
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