Ponder benched, but is still the starter 12 Dec 11

The Vikings need to finish 2-1 against the Saints, Redskins and Bears to avoid becoming the first team to lose 14 games in the 51-year history of the franchise.

“That’s our motivation now,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “We don’t have the guys who will just lie down and quit.”

The Vikings (2-11) have played some bad football at times. But unlike some of the league’s other disappointing teams, the players haven’t quit on coach Leslie Frazier, who appears safe in his first full season as a head coach.

Sunday’s 34-28 loss in Detroit was a case in point. The Vikings got off to their worst start of the season while falling behind 21-0 with 5:54 left in the first quarter. But they had the ball at the Lions’ 1-yard line with nine seconds left before a fumble sealed the outcome.

“I know there’s not a lot of solace when you don’t win,” Frazier said. “But there was nothing in that first quarter that would have told you that we would have fought the way our players did fight to get us back in the game and have a chance to win at the end.”

Frazier made a difficult decision to start rookie quarterback Christian Ponder despite a hip pointer that forced him to miss two days of practice and most of Friday’s practice as well. Frazier then made an even more difficult decision to bench the kid for the first time of his career.

Ponder threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. His final interception, a throw across his body into triple coverage over the middle of the field, got him benched with eight minutes left in the third quarter.

Backup Joe Webb came in and led the Vikings to a pair of touchdown drives. He became the first Vikings quarterback to run for 100 yards (109), including a 65-yard touchdown run. He also threw for 84 yards and a touchdown, and led the offense 79 yards to the Lions’ 1-yard line in the final minute of the game.

Webb completed 8-of-13 passes on the drive and ran for two first downs, including a 10-yarder on fourth-and-6 from the Detroit 12.

But Webb was sacked and stripped of the ball on the final snap. Detroit escaped despite having a plus-6 advantage in turnovers.

Although Webb gave the team a spark, there is no quarterback controversy. Despite Ponder’s benching and 1-6 record, Frazier said he remains the team’s starting quarterback and long-term answer at the position.

The Vikings now head home to play Drew Brees and the Saints’ explosive offense with a secondary that’s beyond depleted. The only team to lose more than 11 games in Vikings history is Les Steckel’s infamous 3-13 team of 1984.

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NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – NOTES, QUOTES

TRENDING: Ponder is starting to look like he might have a little too much of the Brett Favre gambler gene in him. He says all the right things about taking care of the ball and learning not to throw the passes he could get away with in college. Yet he’s now up to 13 turnovers, including 11 interceptions.

LINEUP WATCH: Veteran cornerback Cedric Griffin, who has struggled all year, finally was benched after giving up a 57-yard touchdown pass to Titus Young in the first quarter. Benny Sapp replaced him.

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NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

–RB Adrian Peterson has made significant progress in his recovery from a high left ankle sprain, but the Vikings decided to wait at least another week before letting him play. He was inactive for the third consecutive game, but could play this Sunday against the Saints at home. Peterson practiced on consecutive days last week. He was sore and limping a little on the second day, so the Vikings, who were out of the playoff hunt long ago, decided to rest him.

–CB Cedric Griffin has struggled all season as he came back from torn ACLs in both knees the past two years. Sunday, he was benched late in the first quarter with the Lions leading 21-7. He failed to redirect receiver Titus Youngon a go route. When safety Jamarca Sanford was let in helping over the top, Young caught an easy 57-yard touchdown pass. Allen has given up big pass plays throughout the season.

–DE Jared Allen had three sacks, giving him a career-high 17.5 on the season and 100.5 in his career. His previous season high was 15.5. Allen still has a way to go for the team record. Chris Doleman holds the mark of 21 set in 1989.

–RT Phil Loadholt has had problems with speed rushers during his three-year career. Sunday was one of his worst performances. Lions LDE Cliff Avril embarrassed Loadholt in the first half. On Minnesota’s first snap of the game, Avril registered a strip-sack that enabled linebacker Stephen Tulloch to recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

–QB Joe Webb became the first Vikings quarterback to run for 100 yards in a game. He ran seven times for 109 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown. The previous record for rushing yards by a Vikings quarterback belonged to Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, who had 99 yards in a win over the Rams in 1961.

–WR Percy Harvin continued to take on a bigger role in the offense with RB Adrian Peterson sidelined. Harvin was targeted 15 times, catching 10 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball four times for 40 yards. He’s only 184 pounds, but he’s still one of the toughest players on the team.