EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Christian Ponder came through Sunday with perhaps his biggest game in the NFL against maybe the toughest defense he’s faced in his 14 games.
Not surprisingly, the Minnesota Vikings came up with their biggest, and most surprising win, during that time in the 24-13 win against the San Francisco 49ers. Minnesota’s win and Ponder’s performance (21 of 35 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns to go with a rushing score) caught attention around the league, especially in Detroit, where the Vikings travel for their first NFC North game of the season.
“What you’re seeing is a young player that’s improved significantly from Year 1 to Year 2, for a lot of reasons,” Lions’ coach Jim Schwartz said.
“Number one, like I said, healthy and No. 2 he’s had an offseason. He’s had the same coaches, second year in the system and all those different things. He has good playmakers around him, Adrian Peterson, (Toby) Gerhart, Percy Harvin. (Kyle) Rudolph, the tight end, is playing very well.
“Now you get (Jerome) Simpson back. There’s playmakers around him.”
Ponder returns to the site of perhaps his worst game of his short career when he threw three interceptions and was knocked out early with and injury in a 34-28 loss at Detroit last season.
Here are a few highlights from Ponder’s weekly Wednesday press conference with the Twin Cities media:
1. Last year with Detroit, was that rock-bottom for you?
PONDER: It was definitely a tough game. Three interceptions and dealing with the injury and everything, it was tough. The weird thing is, on offense we moved the ball. We put up points. I just kept making mistakes and turning the ball over. That was definitely a tough game.
2. You guys talked about changing the mindset last week, how do you keep that going forward?
PONDER: We just got to continue and realize that one win against a good team doesn’t mean anything. There’s 13 games left and this one is a huge one for us. Again, first game in the NFC North and we’ve lost three straight to Detroit. We need to start off on the right foot in this division, and I think everyone has that right mindset. I think they’re coming to work today and are focused to put in work and get ready.
3. In that trip to Detroit and the confidence hit that game took, did that carry forward for you at all?
PONDER: I think it definitely hurt my confidence. And after that, I just tried to regroup. What was the game after that, New Orleans? That was a tough game for me as well. Obviously my performance, it took a little bit to regroup after that. That’s something I’ve learned from. Everyone’s going to have a tough game. It was obviously not my best performance, but you’ve got to move on. Again, it’s week-to-week. Last week you played well, you’ve got to move on.
4. Word is leaking out here that the officials are getting close to an agreement. With what you’ve seen and where that story has gone, what would it mean to get them back?
PONDER: I heard that report. I don’t know if it’s confirmed or not. Again, it’s something we can’t control. Obviously we’ll be happy if they come back. The referees, the replacement guys, they’ve been put in such a tough position. They’re doing the best they can. You can’t blame them for anything. They’re busting their butts to do it. Even when the regular guys come back, they’re going to make mistakes as well. I feel bad for them. They’re doing a lot of hard work and I appreciate what they are doing.”
5. You said you felt bad for the replacement refs, do you feel bad for the Packers the way they lost that?