The Minnesota Vikings entered Thursday night's game with questions about their quarterback position, and they left with a much-needed win, but the position in disarray after Christian Ponder left with a dislocated shoulder.
Ponder's injury was a cruel twist of fate on a night the embattled quarterback succeeded at managing the game. He didn't do anything flashy, but settled after a first quarter interception to complete 81 percent of his passes at an efficient 8.3 yards per attempt while posting a passer rating of 113.1.
An attempted end zone dive in the third quarter changed everything for Ponder. Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall made contact with Ponder's shoulder and despite positive signs he left the field and did not return. Whether Thursday represents his final snaps in Minnesota hinges on the severity of his shoulder injury and whether he can return in 2013.
The Vikings have plenty of time to think about the quarterback position before their Week 11 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Matt Cassel stepped in as needed, but his play was inconsistent. The box score shows an efficient 4-for-6 passing night, but the offense lacked the verticality it displayed with Ponder on the field.
Josh Freeman remains on the roster and can move the ball downfield, but his passes have found too many opponents' hands in 2013. The Vikings will not play Freeman simply because of his $3 million price tag. On Thursday night, the team understood that its key to success was a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson, and while the MVP running back wasn't always successful, his two touchdowns were critical in pushing Minnesota to an unlikely win.
Head coach Leslie Frazier will have to make a difficult decision over the next ten days. Cassel has the ability to be a game manager, but at this stage he's little more, while Freeman has the potential to make plays with his arm but could also become a liability. The wild card is Ponder's injury, as the third-year quarterback splits the extremes and would be the right answer, provided he can play again soon.