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Updated: December 9th, 2012 10:59pm
Zulgad: Even Christian Ponder appears out of answers at this point

Zulgad: Even Christian Ponder appears out of answers at this point

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Christian Ponder spent 4 minutes, 4 seconds at the podium on Sunday during his postgame press conference.

That is a brief amount of time for a guy who never exudes attitude or bristles when asked a question, no matter how much he might not like the inquiry. This also came after the Vikings' 21-14 win over NFC North rival Chicago had left them a game behind the Bears at 7-6.

So what gives when the quarterback from a home team that just won a crucial game can't even get five minutes worth of questions directed his way?

Actually, the explanation is very simple: At this point there is little left for Ponder to say or for him to be asked.

In some ways, the situation involving Ponder has become a Groundhog Day of sorts. It never changes.

On Sunday, Ponder completed 11 of 17 passes for 91 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a subpar 53.8 passer rating. Once again, Adrian Peterson was the Vikings' star, rushing for 154 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns.

It was the seventh consecutive game that Peterson has had more than 100 yards rushing. Ponder, meanwhile, has gone seven consecutive games without throwing for 300 yards. Sunday's game was the third during that time that Ponder has failed to even throw for 100 yards.

That's impressive - not in a good way - when you're talking about the performance of an NFL quarterback in 2012.

"Christian did a great job of leading our offense, very efficient in what he did in the passing game," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "Executed the game plan just like we wanted and things worked out the way we had all hoped it would throughout the week."

Judging from the reaction one saw on their Twitter feed Sunday afternoon, it's safe to say that many Vikings fans didn't see the same game Frazier witnessed.

Many of those fans are desperate for backup Joe Webb to get a shot, simply because he isn't Ponder.

That isn't going to happen. Not unless Ponder gets hurt. Ponder heard the boos from the Metrodome crowd when his passes fell incomplete on Sunday, but that had little impact on what happened on the sideline. Webb never started warming up.

And don't expect to see that change next Sunday in St. Louis, the following Sunday in Houston or in the regular-season finale on Dec. 30 against Green Bay at the Metrodome.

Ponder is the Vikings' guy for this season. That decision was made long ago and goes all the way up the food chain to general manager Rick Spielman, who selected Ponder with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft.

The Vikings want to give Ponder every opportunity to grab hold of this job and they also want to give him as much playing time as possible to see if he can become the quarterback they were hoping to get.

Twenty-three starts into his NFL career, it appears Ponder very well might not be the right guy for the job. But if that's the case, Spielman and his crew are going to have to go back to the drawing board and that's a scary proposition.

While Frazier is entitled to his opinion of Ponder's performance, to say the quarterback did a great job of anything on Sunday is at best a major reach. Sure, Ponder's statistics would have looked far better if wide receiver Devin Aromashodu had come down with a nicely thrown 45-yard pass in the end zone.

But the fact was Peterson rushed for more yards in the first quarter (104) than Ponder passed for in the entire game.

For several weeks now, Ponder has approached the podium after games, win or lose, and talked about needing to better, needing to fix his mistakes, needing to look at the film and make the necessary adjustments.

Certainly Ponder has to be tired of regurgitating the same answers week after week and there are many who are probably plenty tired of hearing the same thing.

So on Sunday, Ponder was asked about how the Vikings can translate another home victory, their sixth of the season, to the road. A question about Peterson was followed by a handful of questions about Ponder's decision-making or certain plays that happened Sunday.

Ponder's answers couldn't be classified as curt but they were short and offered little insight. No one objected to this. Ponder had played only a small role in the Vikings' victory and, most importantly, he hadn't done anything to cost them the game, as he had done a week earlier in Green Bay.

While many wait for Ponder to either take the next step as a quarterback or end up on the bench, the reality is that the best-case scenario over the final three weeks of the season will be for Ponder to do an adequate job of managing the game and handing off to Peterson.

The 2012 edition of the Minnesota Vikings have experienced their ups-and-downs, but have been a pleasant surprise after a dreadful 3-13 finish in 2011.

The same can't be said for Ponder.

He has not shown the progress many hoped to see and there has been nothing to indicate that he should enter training camp next summer as this team's clear-cut starter.

Deep down Spielman and Frazier have to know this is the case, but they aren't going to deal with it now. Because of that, there is little for anyone to say about the Vikings' quarterback situation. And that includes the guy playing the position. 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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