After all, he didn't complete a pass in the second half until his second pass of the fourth quarter. He completed just 13 of 32 passes (40.6 percent). He threw two interceptions, equaling the total of Donovan McNabb through the first six games of seasons. Both of his interceptions led directly to Green Bay points.
Yet, not only did you not get the sense that Ponder's debut as a starter was a failure, he was roundly praised for his poise and making plays both with his legs and his feet. He was sacked twice, but, because of his mobility, the two combined for just two yards in losses – not the standard eight to 10 drive-killing yards on McNabb sacks. He also delivered accurate passes to receivers on the move.
"I thought Christian did a lot of good things during the course of the game. He didn't seem to be intimidated or afraid of the situation," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.
Considering that Ponder played the entire game without his starting center and wide receiver Bernard Berrian (he may have to get used to that), he played some of the second half without his starting right guard (Anthony Herrera) and all of it without his top receiving threat (Percy Harvin). If not for Adrian Peterson lining up behind him, the second half of Sunday's game had the look of a preseason game with the guys the Vikings had on the field.
The Vikings brought back the deep pass to the offense, which was sorely lacking. Aside from the 72-yard pass to Jenkins, he had 45 yards in his other two receptions, Visanthe Shiancoe caught a 22-yard pass and Greg Camarillo pulled in a key 19-yarder on third down. In the McNabb-led games, the Vikings managed few deep downfield passes, or at least completions.
The Vikings were also much more effective on third-down offense. Under McNabb, the Vikings ranked near the bottom of the league in third down conversions, making good on just 36 percent of their chances. With Ponder at the wheel, the Vikings converted nine of 16 third downs – a much more impressive 56 percent.
"The third-down numbers were impressive," Frazier said Monday. "When you are able to complete I think 56 percent conversion rate against one of the top defenses in the National Football League the way our offense did, Christian had a major part in that third-down conversion rate."
Was a great artistic success? No. In the end, the Vikings lost, but prior to punting with 2:37 to play, the Vikings had the ball with a chance to knock off the undefeated Packers and overcome a humbling 20-0 scoring deficit in the third quarter. It didn't happen, but the fans at the Metrodome let Ponder know they appreciated his effort and even the cynical media had to admit he made plays that McNabb either couldn't or hasn't.
There were a lot of people who were convinced the Packers were going to hammer the Vikings by 20-plus points. It made sense. Unbeaten defending champs vs. a rookie QB making his first start didn't sound so much like Frazier was throwing Christian onto the field, it was that he was throwing Christian to the lions. Instead, the rookie not only managed the game, but did so with poise and prowess that have Vikings fans more excited Monday than they were Sunday – which is a feat not easily accomplished.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.