In the critical game that could have defined his season and established the arc that his young career will follow, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was ...

A nonfactor.

The Vikings had a 14-0 lead before Ponder's second completion. Adrian Peterson had 104 yards rushing before Ponder's third completion.

And the Vikings dismissed the Bears 21-14 at Mall of America Field while Ponder posted a 53.8 passer rating and threw for fewer than 100 yards (91) for the third time in his past seven games.

"We won the way we're designed to win," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We talk all the time to our team about what Viking ball is, and today was a perfect example of it.

"Run the football effectively, play great defense against the run, come up with turnovers and play outstanding special teams."

The Vikings ran the ball 38 times for 171 yards (4.5) and were plus-1 in turnover margin. That enabled Ponder to get by with throwing only 17 times with 11 completions.

His one interception ruined the Vikings' chance of a field goal right before the half, but it also left the Bears with only 32 seconds and the ball at their 20.

"We're probably not going to win a lot of games when we throw the football 40 times," Frazier said. "That's not who we are. That's not the way we're built right now."

The Vikings scored three touchdowns. One came via the defense. Another was a 5-yard scoring drive on which Peterson ran on all three plays.

The other touchdown drive was a six-play, 80-yarder that opened the game. Peterson ran the ball five times for 69 yards, while the other play was an 11-yard completion to Michael Jenkins on third-and-9 from the Chicago 28.

Ponder and Jenkins also connected on fourth-quarter passes that went for 8 yards on third-and-7 from the Vikings 4-yard line and 10 yards on third-and-6 from the Vikings 46. The Vikings still punted, but they chewed up nearly five minutes of game clock and moved the ball from near their goal line to midfield.

"That was big for us," Ponder said.

Ponder obviously knows he has to play better. Especially as the Vikings now take their 1-5 road record to St. Louis and Houston for back-to-back games.

"We have such a great atmosphere here, and our fans do such a great job," Ponder said. "As an offense that plays on the road, it's tough when it's loud."

The Vikings also know their passing game isn't going to magically improve, especially with Percy Harvin now on injured reserve.

So they march on, not with throwback jerseys but with a throwback offensive mentality.

"Our players buying into the importance of running the football and running it effectively is probably the secret to our success," Frazier said. "They have to buy into that philosophy because it's not across the board in our league."