Matt Cassel's so-so performance keeps starting quarterback unsettled
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MINNEAPOLIS - Given a second chance to prove he's the answer at quarterback, at least for this season, Matt Cassel did very little in the 25-point loss to provide optimism.
Cassel threw the ball 44 times, but was intercepted twice and didn't find the endzone until the game was out of reach with quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman watching from the sidelines.
"It's tough for any quarterback when you're under the stress and duress that he was under at times," Coach Leslie Frazier said. "[Cassel] has to play better. There's no question about it."
The Panthers had three sacks on Cassel to go along with at least six hits, but his poor decisions led to two interceptions that stalled key drives.
A different quarterback won't fix an atrocious defense, but Cassel commanded an offense that scored just three points and committed two turnovers in the game's first 59 minutes.
Both of Cassel's interceptions were the result of overthrowing his receiver. The first ended their opening drive as Panthers safety Mike Mitchell made the easy pick over receiver Greg Jennings, who was on a deep in route in Panthers territory.
Down 28-3, the Vikings had a six-play, 52-yard drive end with Cassel's second interception at the start of the fourth quarter when he overshot Jennings again and into the arms of Mitchell.
"The one ball just sailed on me. I had a little pressure up the middle and I was trying to finish through. I wasn't able to do that," Cassel said. "And with the second one, we got the coverage that we wanted. Obviously I tried to throw a little bit higher and we didn't connect on that one."
Even the NFL MVP isn't immune to the team's mistakes, as he's fumbled three times in five games. Peterson had just four fumbles in 2012.
A seemingly open competition every week, Frazier said he's undecided at quarterback for Monday night's matchup against the New York Giants on Oct. 21. Ponder has already been benched in favor for Cassel and it appears likely that Freeman will get his first start over Cassel next week.
But that decision is far from official.
"I want to go back and evaluate what Matt [Cassel] did and make a determination as we go," Frazier said.
Ponder said after the game that coaches told him the competition is open to anyone, including him, but Freeman is the only quarterback who has yet to make a start. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers transplant began a crash course in the playbook this week and two weeks should be long enough to get him on the field.
Buried under questions of his team's numerous deficiencies, Frazier wasn't about to endorse any of his three quarterbacks after Sunday's debacle.
"We'll look at it when we come back this week and see where [Freeman] is and make a determination as we go," Frazier said.
Regardless, at 1-4, the Vikings playoff hopes seem minimal as they've struggled through the relatively easy part of their schedule.
"Our season is by no means a lost season," Frazier said. "There's still plenty of football to be played."