EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — All the talk of improvement and growth this offseason for Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder finally gave way last week to a chance to prove it in a regular-season game.
Ponder came through with his most efficient game in his 11th career start. He was 20 of 27 passing for 270 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown, but he also avoided interceptions against a Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense that was one of the best in the league in several categories last season. Ponder had one turnover, a fumble on a sack. He also helped lead the Vikings down with 20 seconds left with two big passes to get into position for a tying field goal as the fourth quarter ended and then drove the team down for a field goal in overtime in Sunday’s 26-23 overtime win.
Here are a few things Ponder had to say Wednesday in his usual weekly press conference coming off Sunday’s victory:
1. You talked on Sunday about kind of resetting yourself on the sideline after those first few series and making sure you got the tempo going, how do you go about getting that from drive one this week?
PONDER: It’s just an attitude. I think mentally just telling myself that I need to go out and play aggressively and play almost mad. I just (have to) go out there and play with that sense of urgency and I think that starts with the tempo that you call the play, you break the huddle immediately and you get everybody up there and you run the play. I think you can control a lot of that in the huddle.
2. What do you mean by play almost mad?
PONDER: I don’t know, just play with a relentlessness. Yeah, after those first couple drives I was mad that I missed a couple throws and just kind of said, ‘I’m going to go out here and throw this ball and make plays.’ It was almost like playing mad, I guess. I don’t know.
3. Overall, what gives you the biggest comfort in (Kyle Rudolph)?
PONDER: We just have so much chemistry. The guy, I think his hands are unbelievable. He finds ways to get open. He’s trustworthy. He’s reliable. You know what he is going to do and where he’s going to be. He doesn’t even have to be fully open for you to complete a ball to him. I just trust that he’s going to make plays. And I trust that he’s big enough that if I don’t throw a ball where it’s supposed to be, either he’ll knock it down and not let it be intercepted or he’ll make a play and catch the ball.
4. How encouraged are you with the way you moved the ball in the second half without Jerome (Simpson) and to some extent without John Carlson?
PONDER: It’s very promising. We had a lot of guys step up. Like Devin, Devin made some big plays out there at the wide receiver position. So, we’ve got guys that can step up and make plays and we can move the ball when we have to. But we are excited to get Jerome back at some point, in a couple of games. Like you said, John Carlson slowly being implemented and working through what he’s got to work through. We’ve got so many weapons on this team and so much depth on this team, it really helps me as a quarterback to trust those guys that they are going to make plays.
5. Can you talk about the seam for Percy (Harvin) where you hit the safety in the chest, was that a matter of them playing Cover-2 all day and you just not expecting that guy to be there?
PONDER: Yeah, what we did was, we had a dummy cadence and I was keying the back-side safety and he looked like he was staying in Cover-2 during the dummy cadence. So, after we snapped the ball they rotated to single-high (coverage) and I just made a bad assumption they were staying in Cover-2 and immediately looked at the linebackers to make my read. Yeah, my lesson learned is to always keep the eyes on the safeties because those are the guys that tell the truth and everyone else lies. So, I’ve got to do a better job of that.