MANKATO -- In completing only 3 of 6 passes on first and second down in Friday night's preseason-opening loss at San Francisco, quarterback Christian Ponder and the first-team offense -- sans Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson -- fell short of a key goal that Ponder says the team is shooting for in 2012.
"We want 75 percent completions on first and second downs," Ponder said today after the Vikings' last practice in Mankato this year. "That's the number we're shooting for. Obviously, we were in a lot of third-and-long situations a year ago, and we want to get out of that."
Ponder completed three of his first four attempts on first and second down in Friday's 17-6 loss. They went for 72 yards and three first downs and helped the Vikings kick a pair of field goals. He said it's a tough balance trying to be efficient yet explosive on first and second down. His first pass on one of those downs on Friday was a 52-yard deep ball to Stephen Burton.
"You want to make big plays and sometimes you have to take risks," Ponder said. "But you don't want to take too big a risk. You have to be efficient with the ball. We still need to force the ball downfield. If you don't throw the ball downfield, you're not going to get the shorter routes open. You have to find a balance somehow."
Good-bye Mankato: Ponder was asked what he learned about the team during its 15 practices over 21 days in Mankato. The Vikings have a walk-through Thursday morning before returning to the Twin Cities. Thursday's walk-through isn't open to the public.
"I think we're going to be a hard-nosed football team," he said. "We can run the ball, but we're also working on our no-huddle stuff. So we can jump into our no-huddle and pick up the pace. But we want to keep the ball in our hands and eat up as much clock as possible. I think this whole offense is very versatile. We can do a lot of different things. That's the exciting part."
Would you take 8-8?: Ponder was asked if he'd take an 8-8 record right now. "Would I take 8-8 right now? If 8-8 would take us to the playoffs," he said. "We want to make the playoffs. I don't know if 8-8 will do it in our division. So obviously the main goal is to go 16-0. So I don't know. Whatever takes us to the playoffs."