Turnovers continue to haunt Vikings’ Ponder

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Christian Ponder stepped to the podium following the Minnesota Vikings 24-17 win against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and again took the blame for interceptions and an otherwise stumbling passing offense.

Taking blame is something Ponder has willingly done over his 17 NFL starts. Unfortunately, needing to accept blame is too often the issue Minnesota’s second-year starter and hope for a franchise quarterback.

“We just couldn’t find a pace, couldn’t get into a rhythm, and a lot of that is my fault,” Ponder said. “I have to step up and play better. I had two turnovers. It wasn’t smart. The first one I threw across my body and it sailed on me. The second one, I was trying to throw the ball away and got my arm hit, obviously it didn’t make it out of bounds.”

Ponder finished 8 of 17 for just 58 yards passing Sunday. He threw two interceptions and was sacked three times. But running back Adrian Peterson ran for 153 yards and a touchdown, and the Vikings’ defense had another shutdown effort against Arizona to help Minnesota (5-2) stay among the leaders in the NFC North.

With Ponder again struggling to find any consistency, the Vikings totaled only one first down in the second half until a Peterson run with 14 seconds left ended the game. Ponder was 1 of 7 passing in the second half, completing only a short 4-yard pass to Peterson. Percy Harvin, who entered the game leading the league in receptions, had four catches for 37 yards, but did add a touchdown catch. Tight end Kyle Rudolph went without a catch on four targets.

And Ponder had downfield threat Jerome Simpson back healthy on Sunday. Simpson had one catch for eight yards and also drew a big pass interference penalty that led to a Peterson touchdown run.

Ponder, who was the last quarterback in the league to throw an interception, now has six in the past three games and seven turnovers total in those three games.

“I’m trying to do too many things,” Ponder said. “I’m getting out of the pocket and trying to force it to happen. I have to be a lot smarter and make better decisions for sure.”

Ponder, looking like every bit the part of a franchise quarterback through the first four weeks, has resembled more of the overmatched rookie he was last season when pressed into action early because of Donovan McNabb’s struggles.

Last week, Ponder blamed two interceptions and several poor throws on bad footwork. He has said he isn’t making bad decisions, just poor throws. But after a week of talking about the issues in the loss last week against Washington, he made similar mistakes Sunday, such as an overthrow of Rudolph that was intercepted by linebacker Paris Lenon and resulted in Arizona’s first touchdown.

“It’s never really smart to throw across your body like that,” Ponder said. “As a quarterback, I can make that throw. That’s an easy throw to make. Looking back, I probably should have run with it.”

Ponder’s second interception came at the end of the second quarter and allowed the Cardinals to attempt a field goal with five seconds left, but Jay Feely’s 47-yard attempt went wide right.

“We got stifled in that second half, but Christian is going to be fine,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “We’ll go back, we’ll look at the tape and find out what we have to do to make the corrections that are necessary and he’ll keep improving. It’s just still a part of the process with all of our players.”

Carlson might have a concussion: Tight end John Carlson, who has been slow to get going after signing a five-year, $25 million deal as a free agent in the offseason, left Sunday’s game and will be evaluated for a concussion.

Carlson has three catches for eight yards this season, and a quick turnaround for Thursday’s game could mean he will be forced to miss at least one game.

“We’ll have to go through some things in the next 48 hours and see where he is,” Frazier said.

Another one in four days: Minnesota hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday this week, meaning a short turnaround and less recovery time than normal. Frazier said the team would have a day off Monday, before returning for one practice before Thursday’s game.

However, hosting the game does play into Minnesota’s favor. Road teams have won two of the seven Thursday games this year, but one of those came in the season-opener when the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants. New York is the only other road team to win, winning in Week 3 at Carolina.

Peterson adding to records: Peterson’s 29th career 100-yard rushing game tied him with Robert Smith for the most in team history. Peterson already broke Smith’s all-time team rushing mark earlier this season and is now 15th in NFL history in rushing yards during the first six seasons of a career with 7,454 yards. He trails No. 14 Corey Dillon by 66 yards. If Peterson continued on his average of 93.14 yards-per-game this season, he would finish the season with 8,292 yards for his six-year career, which would fall seventh on the list, just behind Earl Campbell, who had 8,296 yards in his first six years.

Peterson moved into fourth place on the team’s net yardage list with 9,276 combined yards in his career. His touchdown was the 47th of his career, tying him for fourth on the team’s all-time list with Chuck Foreman and Anthony Carter. Cris Carter owns the record with 79.

Peterson now has the second-most rushing attempts in team history with 1,542, trailing only Bill Brown’s 1,627 attempts.

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