GREEN BAY, Wis. – Christian Ponder doesn’t have to worry about keeping his starting job for at least one more week. Coach Leslie Frazier made sure of that, saying there was no reason to consider another quarterback change after Ponder posted the sixth-best passer rating of his career during a turnover-free performance in a 26-26 tie against the Packers at Lambeau Field.
For that, Ponder is grateful. He’ll take his 1-6-1 record as a starter this season into next Sunday’s game against the Bears at Mall of America Field.
“I’m happy that I get another chance,” said Ponder, who completed 70 percent of his passes (21-for-30) for 233 yards, one touchdown and a 103.9 passer rating despite being sacked six times. “But we got to keep getting better so we can get a win.”
Ponder said the tie felt more like a loss. Considering the way he and the rest of the team played in the fourth quarter, it’s understandable.
When Blair Walsh kicked his 29-yard field goal with 14 minutes, 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings led 23-7. Ponder had completed 80 percent of his passes for 189 yards, a touchdown (just his seventh of the season) and a 122.7 passer rating. He also had helped the Vikings convert 56 percent of their third downs (five of nine).
But as Packers quarterback Matt Flynn was heating up in relief, Ponder and the offense were freezing up literally and figuratively in the single-digit windchill of Lambeau Field.
Once the Vikings took that 16-point lead, Ponder completed just five of 10 passes for 44 yards. Two of those incompletions were key drops by Greg Jennings on third down in overtime and by Cordarrelle Patterson off a deflected pass that he should have caught in the end zone that would have won the game in overtime.
But Ponder wasn’t without blame, either. Earlier in the game, he threw a perfect pick-six opportunity that cornerback Davon House dropped. And Ponder also didn’t step up in the fourth quarter when the Vikings needed him to convert third-down-and-long situations.
The Vikings were 0-for-3 on third down in the fourth quarter. Ponder was sacked on a third-and-11. And, with 14 seconds left in regulation and the Vikings facing third-and-seven at their 44, he misfired badly on a deep sideline route to Jerome Simpson that might have given strong-legged kicker Blair Walsh a shot at winning the game in regulation.
“They brought more pressure [in the fourth quarter] and were able to get there,” Ponder said. “Or they dropped everyone into coverage, took [receivers] away. Their defense also had a spy on me so they could take the run away from me.”
Ponder also bobbled a snap on second down that resulted in a busted play on which he lost 3 yards.
“Just miscommunication [on the snap],” Ponder said. “It seems like late in games, we have these mess-ups that cost us games.”
But, overall, Frazier seemed pleased with his quarterback.
“He did a great job getting the ball to the right people,” Frazier said. “Really composed. Ran the offense. Was under control in every situation. Did a good job of stepping up in the pocket when he needed to, staying on his reads and not just panicking in the pocket. So overall, without looking at the tape, it seems like he did everything we wanted him to do at the quarterback position.”