Christian Ponder (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Christian Ponder earned his sixth straight start with a solid performance Sunday in Lambeau Field. There were flaws, like six sacks and critical dropped passes by his receivers, but Ponder didn’t turn the ball over.
Don’t blink, but it’s almost like quarterback stability is taking place in Minnesota. Whether that will last the rest of the season or not will play itself out, but head coach Leslie Frazier was already announcing Christian Ponder as the starter next week after an efficient performance Sunday at Lambeau Field.
It will mark the sixth straight start for Ponder this season and the ninth overall when he starts Dec. 1 against the Chicago Bears in the Metrodome.
“I don’t know any reason why he wouldn’t be (the starter),” Frazier said after Sunday’s 26-26 tie with the Green Bay Packers. “He did a great job getting the ball to the right people, and I don’t think he had any turnovers today. He was really composed and ran the offense and was under control in every situation.”
It was Ponder’s best performance of the season. He avoided throwing any interceptions, completed 21 of 30 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown, and had a 103.9 passer rating. The blemish was taking six sacks.
Even with the sacks, Frazier thought Ponder’s pocket presence was better.
“He did a good job of stepping up in the pocket when he needed to and staying on his reads and not just panicking in the pocket. He was much more in control of what needed to happen for our offense to be successful,” Frazier said. “He was very good when he was under center, he did a good job when he was in the gun, whether we were rolling him out or he was in drop-back situations, so overall, without looking at the tape, it seems like he did everything that we wanted to do at the quarterback position and he did a lot of good things.”
Although the Vikings relied heavily on an effective running game – they had 232 yards rushing – Ponder spread the ball around nicely. He connected with nine different receivers, despite the Vikings clearly trying to get rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson more involved. Ponder targeted the slippery receiver 11 times, good for eight catches and 54 yards.
“It’s exciting. I’m definitely a guy that wants to be out there, but everyone wants to be out there,” Ponder said. “I’m happy that I get another chance and we’ve got to keep getting better so we can get a win.”
His performance increased his passer rating to a more respectable 78.7 on the season, but he still has more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (seven). However, since regaining the start job on Oct. 27, he is in positive territory over the past five games – five touchdowns against four interceptions.
Despite the strong performance, he was disappointed that the Vikings blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, saying third-down conversions were the bugaboo.
“There is definitely some disappointment. We were up at halftime, coming out and getting the ball to start the second half and we weren’t able to score,” he said. “We gave up the lead and we didn’t score points when we should have and I think we let it get out of our hands and it’s unfortunate that we aren’t walking away with our third victory.”
They had their chances a few times in the passing game, but this time it was more about mistakes by the receivers than the quarterback.
In the fourth quarter, after the Packers cut their deficit to 23-13, Ponder put a deep pass right on the money for Patterson, but he dropped what might have ended up being a touchdown. The Vikings punted and Green Bay pulled within three points, 23-20, with a touchdown on the next drive.
After Green Bay tied the game with 46 seconds left in regulation, the Vikings got the ball to their own 41-yard line with a drive-opening 11-yard pass to TE John Carlson, but on the next play, Jarius Wright dropped a pass that likely would have got them in Packers territory. Three plays later, the Vikings punted and the game moved to overtime.
With the score tied at 26 on field goals from each team on their opening drives of overtime, the Vikings forced a punt from Green Bay. Once again, the Vikings had a chance to get to midfield, but a dropped third-down pass by Greg Jennings led to a punt and the Packers’ final drive, which ended as time ran out in overtime.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win,” Ponder said, “but we have to keep moving forward and keep learning and I’m proud of the way we played and we played five quarters of a game to the very last second.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.