Christian Ponder, his left arm in a sling following his first victory since Week 17 a year ago, couldn’t help but muster a smile and a laugh when asked to sum up the past six weeks of his life and his career.
“It’s been an interesting year, that’s for sure,” said Ponder, who dislocated his left [non-throwing] shoulder with 1 minute, 12 seconds left in the third quarter of a 34-27 victory over the Redskins on Thursday night at Mall of America Field.
“My expectations are to [come back from the injury] and play [next] week again,” Ponder said. “But to go 0-3, lose the job, get injured, come back and lose two more. Then come into this game and get injured …”
Ponder paused. For the first time since a career game to beat the Packers in a must-win spot to make the playoffs last December, Ponder had won a game. Even if, like that Packers game, he also was injured.
“Winning cures all,” Ponder said. “The season is far from over.”
At 2-7, that might be a stretch. But it’s not a stretch to say Ponder helped his career and future with the Vikings by the way he played — after throwing an ill-advised deep ball into double coverage that was picked off on the fourth snap of the game. The interception led to the Redskins taking a 3-0 lead on a 19-yard field goal following a Vikings’ goal-line stand.
“I’m sure he’ll tell you it wasn’t the right decision to throw that football where he threw it,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “But that didn’t cause him to go in the tank and have self-doubt. He came back and played some of his best football. So he’s growing and maturing as a quarterback.”
Ponder completed 17 of 21 passes (81 percent) for 174 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a season-high 113.1 passer rating. On third downs, he was 4-for-6 for 50 yards, four first downs and the interception.
Ponder set up the play he was injured on when he scrambled right and hit Jarius Wright with a 28-yard pass on third-and-12. On the next play, from the Redskins’ 15-yard line, Ponder scrambled to his left and bolted for the left pylon. He extended for the pylon when he his right shoulder was hit by the helmet of a diving DeAngelo Hall.
Ponder said the impact of the blow popped his left shoulder out of its socket when he hit the ground. Athletic trainers popped it back in place on the sideline, but Ponder was taken to the locker room and will have further tests on Friday. Frazier said the team will have to decide between Matt Cassel, who replaced Ponder on Thursday night, and Josh Freeman if Ponder can’t play a week from Sunday at Seattle.
“[Hall] hit me pretty hard,” Ponder said. “But he went out of the game, too [concussion]. So that’s good to hear.”
One play later, Adrian Peterson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Vikings a 28-27 lead, their first lead since 14-10 early in the second quarter.
“Christian’s run was an awesome play,” center John Sullivan said. “He sacrificed himself for his team. That’s the kind of leadership a team needs.”
Ponder’s completion to Wright was the alert field vision the team needs.
“It’s funny because I was almost doing jumping jacks over there trying to get his attention, I was so wide open,” Wright said. “He saw me and made a good throw. It was an alert play, a scramble drill that we work on all the time.”
Ponder’s reaction to Wright’s jumping jacks? “I threw the ball as I was laughing,” Ponder said.
Converting, winning and laughing. Three things Ponder hasn’t done much of this season, but was able to put together on Thursday night.