The difference between this loss and the earlier losses is that the Vikings were never in this game. Chicago jumped out to an early lead, and never looked back. The normally great first-half defence didn’t show up tonight, and the offence was its usual anaemic self.
The Vikings had done well to avoid injuries so far this season, but lost several players to injury over the course of the game, including safety Jamarca Sandford, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, and centre John Sullivan. With two offensive line starters out, Donovan McNabb was running for his life back there.
On the good side of the ledger, after a quiet start, Jared Allen got a sack and stripped the ball from Jay Cutler. The Vikings turned that into 6 points on an Adrian Peterson run. Late in the game, Christian Ponder took over at quarterback for Donovan McNabb, and showed some nice situational awareness (avoiding the pass rush) and good accuracy and distance downfield. Other than that, there wasn’t much for Vikings fans to cheer.
After the game, coach Leslie Frazier was careful not to commit himself about who will start next Sunday’s game, but Andrew Kulha at Bleacher Reports is sure that we’ve seen the start of a new quarterback era:
It may be time for former Philadelphia Eagles star, former Washington Redskins mistake and current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb to take his curtain call.
It’s been a great run for McNabb, but it’s probably best to stop digging while he still has a chance to get out of the hole that is the latter stages of his career.
Christopher Gates at the Daily Norseman agrees:
Statistically, if you look at Donovan McNabb’s line from Sunday night, it doesn’t look like he played all that badly. . .he only threw five incompletions on the evening, and put up 177 passing yards. However, as the fourth quarter started at Soldier Field on Sunday evening, Minnesota Vikings’ head coach Leslie Frazier decided that the time had finally come.
And, with that, the Christian Ponder era got underway in Minnesota.
Sure, by the time that Ponder got into the game, the Vikings only had five healthy offensive lineman. . .Phil Loadholt was out of the game with an (as of now) undisclosed injury, and John Sullivan suffered a concussion early in the second half. As the Vikings only had seven offensive linemen dressed on the evening, another injury probably would have seen Jim Kleinsasser lining up at tackle or guard. However, despite that, and despite spending most of the evening running for his life, Ponder was not sacked once in 18 pass attempts, and completed 10 of his passes for 99 yards in his quarter of work.
Update: Tom Pelissero sums up the brief (about a quarter) appearance of Christian Ponder:
Ponder made his NFL debut with 14 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, who led 39-10 and sacked starter Donovan McNabb five times.
“I don’t see it ending like this, as you say,” McNabb said. “But it’s tough. You’re one-and-five at this particular point. I felt like we did a lot of great things (Sunday). But I guess we’ll sit down to talk, but I still expect to be in there next week.”
Ponder was 9-of-17 passing for 99 yards (52.9%) and a 70.5 rating over two drives, both ending with fourth-down passes caught short of the first-down marker. But the rookie first-round picks’s skills were on display as he repeatedly escaped pressure and made several rhythm throws into tight windows.
He scrambled for 8 yards and a first down on his second snap. His first throw was a swing pass to Adrian Peterson for no gain and his second a touch pass to Percy Harvin for 20.
“I thought he did a good job under the circumstances,” Frazier said. “We’ll go back and look at the tape and fully evaluate it. But it seems like he moved around pretty good.”
Ponder was 5-of-10 passing for 58 yards on his first drive, which went 69 yards in 12 plays before a fourth-and-10 throw to Visanthe Shiancoe gained only 9, stalling the Vikings at the Chicago 12-yard line. The Vikings’ next drive went 40 yards in eight plays before stalling at the Chicago 30.
“I was very grateful for the opportunity that Coach let me go in,” Ponder said. “I thought I made some plays, thought I missed some plays, missed a couple throws. But I definitely had fun. It’s always hard to have fun when you’re losing that bad, but I was grateful and I definitely had fun.”
Update, the second: In his column at the Pioneer Press, Tom Powers suggests it’s time for a fire sale:
Vikings for sale! Vikings for sale! Cheap!
Not the team, but individual players. Hey, all you NFL general managers out there, get your very own Minnesota Vikings player. Take him home to play with your kids. Let him tend to the petunias in the garden. Have him wash the car. All we ask for is a seventh-round draft pick in return. And, of course, you take over paying his salary.
The NFL trade deadline almost always passes unnoticed. It’s not a big deal the way it is in other sports where there is a flurry of last-minute activity. The Vikings desperately need to change all that.
The 2011 deadline is Tuesday. It should be a very big deal. There ought to be balloons, parades and free hot dogs at Winter Park if Rick Spielman, the Vikings’ Invisible Man, can partially salvage a lost season by dumping veterans for draft picks. Even very low draft picks would be swell. So would a bag of Doritos.