EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was the last starting quarterback in the NFL to throw an interception this season heading into last week’s game.
Once the second-year pro finally broke his string of 144 passes without a pick, he ended up throwing interceptions on back-to-back passes to end the first half and on the first series of the second half.
Ponder responded by completing 12 of his final 13 passes in Sunday’s 30-7 win against the Tennessee Titans.
“I think it’s a great sign for us of his maturity,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. “In the past, those two interceptions, I just think back to a year ago, where I would have to come over, ‘Hey, come on Christian. Let’s go. Get your head up. You got to go back out there.’ But it wasn’t necessary. He handled it the way you need the quarterback of your football team, one of the leaders of your team, to handle it.”
Ponder has handled nearly everything thrown his way in his second season. He finished 25 of 35 for 258 yards passing Sunday, throwing for two touchdowns after the interceptions.
For the season, his 69.0 percent completion rate ranks second only to Washington Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III’s 69.1 percent. Ponder’s 95.5 quarterback rating is 10th in the league, and he’s thrown six touchdowns to two interceptions in helping the Vikings start 4-1 this season.
Five highlights from Ponder’s weekly Wednesday press conference in advance of Sunday’s road game against Washington:
1. The way you responded to those two interceptions on Sunday, do you think you would respond that same way last year?
PONDER: My confidence is probably a lot higher than it was last year, but I don’t know. It’s hard to say.
2. Do high-percentage passes help you come back from something like that?
PONDER: Yeah, I think so. Especially at the quarterback position, it’s important to establish a rhythm. As you establish a rhythm, it establishes confidence. To connect on short passes and build that confidence again, that definitely helps.
3. Is either one of those, in your mind, a bad decision? The first one, it looks like if you put it out in front of him it’s a catch, the second one it looked like the guy did a good job sinking under.
PONDER: The first one was just a horrible throw. The guy was wide open and I just missed him. That’s always good. The second one, if I would have waited a half-second more, I would have let him clear that linebacker and it would have been a catch. So, I wouldn’t really say it was bad decisions, more bad throws and waited a half-second longer on that second one.
4. It was the game last year at Washington when you had the concussion. We’ve talked about earlier this season diving head-first and stuff … do you feel like in your second season now that you have a better feel of how to protect your body?
PONDER: Yeah, I think so. This game’s a lot different than college. The hits hurt a lot worse. Obviously, I’ve got to keep doing a better job of protecting myself. I think I’m getting smarter about it and learning the proper way to do it.
5. With the way the offensive line has been playing, how much more confidence does that give you to just kind of sit in there and wait for things to develop?
PONDER: A lot of confidence. There’s still that internal clock in your head that goes off, but I have the confidence to get to those third and fourth reads. And watching, especially this past game, watching on film the pocket is huge a lot of the time and they’re doing such a tremendous job.