Ponder v. Newton creates an NFL first

Christian Ponder (Scott Cunningham/Getty)

Christian Ponder and Cam Newton weren't the first rookies to face each in NFL history, but their efficiency set a NFL record.

There was no 432-yard passing day from Carolina's Cam Newton, and Minnesota's Christian Ponder kept his six-shooter touchdown celebration mostly holstered. It was the efficiency rather than the gaudy numbers that were most impressive in the first showdown of rookie quarterbacks in Vikings history.

Ponder completed 18 of 28 passes for 236 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Newton completed 22 of 35 passes for 290 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Despite all the big passing numbers NFL quarterbacks are putting up this season, the last statistic is what had Ponder and Newton establishing an NFL first.

Neither quarterback threw an interception, the first time in the history of the National Football League that opposing rookie quarterbacks both passed for at least 200 yards without throwing an interception, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

"In a game like this, you have to minimize the turnovers," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "… For Christian not to turn the ball over today was big for our football team."

The Vikings got their first road win of the season and Ponder got his first win as a starter.

Despite the lack of interceptions, the Vikings were the beneficiary of two Newton turnovers when he was sacked and stripped of the ball on separate blindside hits from Jared Allen and E.J. Henderson. The Vikings recovered both of those fumbles and turned them into 14 points.

Ponder took responsibility for the two interceptions he threw in his starting debut against the Green Bay Packers the previous week and made an effort to limit the turnovers on the road.

"It's always a point of emphasis. We don't ever want to turn the ball over," he said. "That was my fault obviously last week. It was important for me to keep the ball in our hands."

In six starts this season, Donovan McNabb led the offense to more than 20 first downs just once – the Vikings had 25 against Tampa Bay on Sept. 18. In each of his two starts, Ponder and the Vikings have generated 22 first downs, including a season-high 13 passing first downs Sunday in Carolina.

He gets even better when the pressure is on.

In the three fourth quarters that Christian Ponder has played, the Vikings are 10 of 16 on third downs. In the five fourth quarters that Donovan McNabb played, the Vikings were 4 of 17 on third downs.

Third-down conversions have been a big part of Ponder's success, too. The Vikings converted a season-high 56 percent of their first downs against Green Bay, and in Carolina they converted 50 percent of them. Prior to Ponder starting, they had only one game in which they exceeded 40 percent.

NOTES

  • RB Adrian Peterson joined some elite company when he surpassed 750 yards rushing for the season (he has 798). He has rushed for at least 750 yards and eight touchdowns in all five of his NFL seasons, joining Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith, as well as LaDainian Tomlinson, as the only players to accomplish that.

  • Cam Newton set an NFL rookie record by passing for 1,381 yards in October, the highest total by a rookie in one calendar month, according to Elias, breaking Matthew Stafford's old mark of 1,230 in November 2009.

  • The Vikings "held" Newton to 290 yards passing, but it was just enough for Newton to join Peyton Manning as the only rookie quarterbacks with at least four 290-yard passing games.

  • While it was the first time that the Vikings had a rookie quarterback opposing another starting rookie, it was the second time that Cam Newton has done it. In Week 3, he went against Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert, making Newton the first rookie quarterback selected in the first round to start against two first-round quarterbacks from his class since the advent of the common draft in 1967.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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