Ponder excited for Vikings' chances

Christian Ponder (Scott Boehm/Getty)

Christian Ponder was encouraged by his first start against the Packers and thinks the Vikings have a shot at knocking off the NFL's last undefeated team.

The Vikings know the drill when it comes to having any chance of defeating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Monday Night Football.

Yes, stopping Aaron Rodgers and the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense ultimately comes down to the Vikings' defense, particularly its exceptional pass rush. But the task begins with an offense that believes in long, time-chomping drives.

"It's a good strategy and it's a good thought when you sit down and strategize for the Packers," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Everybody tries that. But (the Packers) score so often. They get seven possessions and score six times."

The Vikings come armed with Adrian Peterson, the league's best running back, a 15-day rest between games and the optimism generated by a change at quarterback, a win at Carolina two weeks ago and a strong performance in a loss to the Packers at the Metrodome three weeks ago.

"Against an undefeated team, the defending world champions, we played pretty well the last time," said quarterback Christian Ponder, referring to the 33-27 loss on Oct. 23. "I'm pretty excited about our chances. I know it's going to be tough. You hear nothing but good things about playing at Lambeau Field and how awesome the experience is going to be. It's an exciting time right now."

Ponder's NFL debut against the Packers three weeks ago was widely viewed as a success because of how well he played in a fourth-quarter comeback that fell just short. He converted 5-of-7 third downs – four of them with completions on third-and-6 or longer and one with a 12-yard run on third-and-7 - as the Vikings outscored the Packers 10-0 in the quarter.

However, Ponder also needs to be mindful of what the Packers did to him in the third quarter. While outscoring the Vikings 20-0 to take a 33-17 lead, the Packers held Ponder to 0-for-5 passing with two interceptions by Charles Woodson.

"The Packers' defense is kind of that way, bend but don't break," Ponder said. "You have to try and take what it gives you, but be careful with the ball."

The Vikings, of course, can't keep pace in a shootout with the Packers. That's why, to no one's surprise, Peterson will be the focal point of the offense.

Three weeks ago, Peterson had 175 yards rushing and a touchdown on 24 carries (7.3) against the Packers. In nine career games against Green Bay, he's rushed for a franchise-record 982 yards, six touchdowns and a 5.5-yard average. He also has two of the three best rushing performances against the Packers, including a 192-yard game in 2008.

The Vikings also had an extra week to self-scout their tendencies and also tinker with ways to expand Peterson's role in the passing game. In Ponder's second career start two weeks ago at Carolina, Peterson caught five passes for a career-high 76 yards and just his third career receiving touchdown.

At 2-6, the Vikings won't scare the 8-0 Packers. But a young quarterback and a well-rested Peterson gives a less-than-dominant Green Bay defense some cause for concern.


  • CB Antoine Winfield, who missed the past four games because of a neck injury, is expected to practice Thursday when the Vikings return to the practice field to prepare for Monday night's game. Winfield's presence will help pass coverage as well as the run defense that was gashed at the end of the Oct. 23 loss to the Packers.

  • WR Percy Harvin (ribs) might be limited in practice Thursday, but the bye week certainly helped the rib injury that's bothered him since training camp.

  • RB Lorenzo Booker, who shares the kickoff return duties with Harvin, has passed the third-party concussion test and will practice Thursday.

  • LB E.J. Henderson says his bothersome left knee is feeling better coming off the bye week. Henderson, who's in the last year of his contract, has been reduced to a two-down player because of the knee. His younger brother, Erin, had to take his spot in the nickel defense during most of the first half of the season.

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