EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Christian Ponder’s development in his second year as the Minnesota Vikings quarterback has been a key, along with a revived defense, to the team’s surprise resurgence.
Minnesota, with Ponder as the only starting quarterback in the league without an interception, is tied with the Chicago Bears at the top of the NFC North standings. Ponder is a big reason, though he is coming off, statistically, his poorest start of the season in Sunday’s 20-13 win against the Detroit Lions.
Ponder was 16 of 26 passing for 111 yards in the victory. For the season, Ponder is eighth in the NFL with a 97.7 quarterback rating and fifth with a 68.3 percent completion rate.
Wednesday, he met with reporters for his weekly press conference, and here are a few highlights:
1. What was your reaction when they sent in that passing call to Jerome (Simpson) on the second down (late in the fourth quarter on Sunday)?
PONDER: It was big. I was excited. Anytime we can throw the ball, I’m excited about it. In that situation, it was a gutsy call, and I’m glad that Coach (Bill) Musgrave trusts me and Jerome to complete that ball. It was huge for us to flip the field position and end up pinning them back where they had to have an unbelievable drive to tie the game. Fortunately, it worked out for us.
2. If teams aren’t doing anything schematically to take away Percy (Harvin), do you notice the ends getting their hands up more if they’re on that side looking for those bubble screens?
PONDER: Oh yeah, definitely. You saw (Detroit defensive end Cliff) Avril almost picked that ball. They know that we’re trying to get the ball to Percy and they’re going to try and take those gimmicky plays away. That’s fine. We’ll find ways to get him the ball in other ways. We ended up calling that play again, and we went to the other side and threw the screen to Jerome to the left because we knew they were going to try and take it away. We have options, and we got answers for everything.
3. Even if the corners are playing like on that one bubble screen that lost three, it looked like the corner’s just staring at Percy there, there may be opportunities to double-move him and do other things?
PONDER: Yeah, definitely. I think Coach Musgrave is going to come up with things to take advantage of their focus. Obviously, they’re going to try and scheme up against us and take those things away. We’re always scheming against them. You know, we’re brighter on this side of the ball anyways.
4. (Coach Leslie) Frazier talked a lot about seizing the moment and recognizing the fact that you are 3-1 and you have an opportunity to build on something here. You’re just a second-year player; do you feel that urgency?
PONDER: Definitely, especially after last year being 3-13. It’s not too often that we are going to be 3-1. I don’t know, hopefully it happens often. But you look at Dan Marino, a guy that went to a Super Bowl early in his career and never went back. And I never know when my career’s going to end. I’m always one injury away. That’s for any player. So, you’ve always got to take advantage of the moments. We’re 3-1 right now, and we haven’t accomplished anything. So, we want to make sure we do accomplish our goals when we have these opportunities.
5. Leslie said he put up a graphic in the meeting on Monday about this being the second quarter of the season. You’ve got three home games in there. How do you guys look at this stretch?
PONDER: That’s kind of been our approach. We’ve kind of gone week to week with games, and we’ve also kind of broken it down into quarters. We went 3-1 in the first quarter, and right now we’re 0-0 in this second quarter. Obviously we’d like to win each quarter. It’s a huge advantage for us to have three games at home. I feel like playing at the Metrodome, playing at Mall of America Field, is such a disadvantage to the away teams. It gets loud in there, especially on the offensive side of the ball for them. So, we’re excited about that. I think it’s going to be big for us, and we’ve just got to focus on putting in that preparation and that work to win this second quarter.