With Harvin sidelined, Ponder passes it around

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 13, 2012 - 10:22 AM

With Percy Harvin out, Christian Ponder better utilized all his receivers in dissecting the Lions.

Christian Ponder didn't need a boxscore Sunday to realize he had spent most of his afternoon spreading the ball around to whoever wanted in.

But when Ponder did finally survey his stats from a 34-24 victory over Detroit, he discovered his 24 completions had gone to 10 different players.

There were deep balls to receivers and key third-down completions to tight ends. There were screens and check-downs to running backs. And, yes, Ponder even inadvertently completed one pass to himself, a connection he probably wanted a do-over for given that Lions defensive end Cliff Avril batted that ball back to him, then flung Ponder for a 15-yard loss.

"Unfortunately," Ponder quipped, "I'm going to have to throw myself another 15-yard pass to negate the negative 15 yards."

Ponder's good humor after Sunday's victory proved refreshing after the way he had approached postgame podiums the previous three weeks. After completing only eight passes and throwing for 58 yards in a Week 7 victory over Arizona, Ponder classified his own mood as "disappointed."

After a lopsided loss to Tampa Bay, his dejection spiked.

Then, when the bottom seemed to drop out of the passing attack with 44 net yards during a 30-20 loss in Seattle, Ponder seemed downright despondent.

But on Sunday, the 24-year-old quarterback found a way to revive the positive energy that characterized the season's first seven weeks. It started with the Vikings' effort to spread the ball around.

"We felt like we had become a little stagnant and predictable in some ways," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We needed Christian to understand the importance of moving it to different people because of what defenses are doing [to us]."

'A blessing in disguise'

From the outside, having to play without Percy Harvin might have seemed like a major handicap for the Vikings. It's not often a sputtering passing attack can lose the NFL's catch leader and emerge even sharper. But running back Adrian Peterson said last Friday he believed Harvin's temporary absence could be "a blessing in disguise."

Those words seemed prophetic after the Vikings torched Detroit for a season-high 34 points plus 403 total yards, their third-highest output of the year.

Ponder's pocket presence and overall calm proved to be the linchpin. Knowing a restless Mall of America Field crowd could turn vicious if their mercurial quarterback struggled, Frazier said he and his staff made certain to set Ponder up for an encouraging start.

The Vikings' first play came in a five-receiver spread set they hadn't used all season. Ponder's first pass, on his third read, went only 1 yard downfield to fullback Jerome Felton near the right sideline. That produced a gain of 5.

Not exactly the explosive or sandlot play design most fans would have dreamed up to ignite the offense. But it was a steadying completion nonetheless.

And it began a 67-yard touchdown drive that put the Vikings ahead for good less than 8 minutes into the game.

Jarius Wright's 54-yard reception on a post route provided the most dazzling fireworks of that opening series. It came with Wright showcasing his speed and Ponder resisting the urge to leave the pocket. Instead he bounced forward to create throwing space for what Lions coach Jim Schwartz characterized as "a javelin throw."

"He got about three crow hops before he threw it," Schwartz noted.

Maybe Rio 2016 could be in Ponder's future.

"For us to step up and start the first drive like that was huge," Ponder said.

Practice makes perfect

All afternoon, Ponder seemed to take an extra breath and make an extra read. He didn't turn the ball over and was sacked only once.

Most importantly, the Vikings offense seemed as diverse as it has been all season.

Ponder connected on five balls thrown more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Those completions produced 131 yards. Twelve of Ponder's completions came between the numbers with the Vikings intent on using the middle of the field.

As the outside world spent last week worrying about the fragility of Ponder's psyche, the quarterback insisted his confidence would be built up through diligent preparation. To that end, Frazier said Ponder's drive produced an extraordinary week of practice.

"Particularly on Friday, he was really on fire," Frazier said. "We were going from one drill to another and I said, 'You have to save some of this for Sunday now.'"

Ponder listened and did his part to keep the Vikings in the NFC playoff picture.

  • related content

  • Read the replay: Vikings Chat with Dan Wiederer

    Wednesday November 14, 2012

    Christian Ponder, the rest of the schedule and more: See what Dan Wiederer was talking about during his weekly Live Chat with Vikings fans.

  • Wright hopes to join Harvin in lineup

    Monday November 12, 2012

    With Harvin (sprained ankle) expected to be healthy coming out of the bye week, the question is whether the Vikings can use him and Wright at the same time.

  • Chart: Ponder's many targets vs. Lions

    Monday November 12, 2012

    A glance at Christian Ponder's targets in Sunday's 34-24 victory over Detroit:

  • Christian Ponder

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Oakland - LP: D. Otero 8 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 9
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
NY Islanders 5 FINAL
Boston 3
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Dallas 1
Colorado 0 FINAL
Calgary 2
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
San Jose 1
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM





question of the day

Poll: Is Paul Molitor the best choice to be the next Twins manager?

Weekly Question


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters