EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder will make his third straight start for the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night against the Washington Redskins, and though he had an uneven performance in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, it might have qualified as the quarterback's best of the year.
It might also be enough to keep Ponder in the starting job for a while yet.
Coach Leslie Frazier's comments on Tuesday might have staked Ponder to a slight lead in the Vikings' ever-evolving quarterback derby. Frazier said Ponder "knows from me that we want him to succeed."
Ponder went 25 of 37 for 236 yards, a touchdown and an interception on Sunday, also running for another touchdown in the Vikings' 27-23 loss to the Cowboys.
"He has no reason to look over his shoulder and say if this happens negative like an interception (last) Sunday against (Dallas) you’re going to be pulled, or sack-fumble in the end zone you’re going to be pulled. He doesn’t have to worry about that. He has to worry about playing well. That’s all he has to worry about,” Frazier said.
If Ponder plays reasonably well on Thursday, it's conceivable he'll keep the starting job into December. The Vikings' next two games are at Seattle (on Nov. 17) and at Green Bay (on Nov. 24), so if the Vikings are trying to find a comfortable environment to put Josh Freeman in the lineup, they might not have it until they return home on Dec. 1 to face the Bears. At that point, they would have five games left in their season, which would make their decision to spend $2 million on Freeman seem even more bizarre. But by then, they could at least have seen Ponder start nine games and have made some kind of a final determination on where he stands.
It seemed like they had already made that determination on Oct. 7 when they signed Freeman, though general manager Rick Spielman has twice said the move was purely about creating competition. But at the earliest, the Vikings will have gone a month between starts for Freeman, and it could possibly be longer than that. Given Spielman's statement that the Vikings want to know by the end of the season whether they can move forward with any of the quarterbacks on their roster, they could be worried about how quick Freeman is picking up the offense.
At the very least, Ponder is getting an extended chance to make his claim for the job.
"I understand it’s a competition, and it’s been a competition all year with Matt (Cassel) being here," Ponder said. "So, I’m not worried about it. I’m focused on increasing my play. I’m competitive against myself as much as those guys. I understand I’ve got to keep getting better. I want to make sure that everyone’s confident that I’m the guy out there that needs to be playing.”