Christian Ponder inactive, Joe Webb to start for Vikings vs. Packers
After starting 26 consecutive games for the Minnesota Vikings, QB Christian Ponder will be on the sidelines for his team’s biggest moment.
Ponder is inactive for Saturday night’s wild-card round playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, meaning that Joe Webb will make his first start since Week 17 of the 2010 season — and his first postseason appearance ever.
Ponder, who is dealing with elbow bursitis, tested his throwing arm out during pregame at Lambeau Field. However, he reportedly struggled to get loose, leading to the Vikings’ decision to scratch him from the lineup.
There’s almost no telling how the Ponder-for-Webb swap might impact the Vikings’ upset bid. Webb did not attempt a single pass this season, as he stayed glued to the bench behind Ponder. Webb’s last legitimate game action came in Week 17 last season, when he completed 17 of 32 passes in a 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Neither Webb nor Ponder has any playoff experience — the Vikings failed to make the playoffs last year in Ponder’s rookie season.
The Vikings stuck with Ponder throughout 2012, even as he struggled to put up numbers after a hot start in the team’s first four games. That faith was rewarded late in the season, as Ponder turned in a decent showing during a Week 16 win in Houston, then fired three TD passes last Sunday against the Packers.
What Webb does bring to the table, compared to Ponder, is more mobility. Ponder is capable of getting out of the pocket — he rushed for 253 yards and two touchdowns this season — but Webb is arguably more dangerous as a runner than a passer. During a tight loss to the Lions last season, for example, Webb ran for 109 yards and a touchdown, while passing for just 84 yards.
It is also worth wondering how much the Packers have prepared for Webb. Minnesota has been non-committal about Ponder’s status all week, meaning the Packers likely ran through their Webb-centric defensive game plan.
Still, a switch like this could be difficult for Green Bay, given Webb’s ability to create with his legs outside of the pocket. In two games against the Packers this season, Ponder finished 28-for-53 through the air with four touchdowns and two interceptions.