Ponder proves his mettle

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 30, 2011 - 11:10 PM

Underneath that calm exterior is an intense competitor. Yes, Christian Ponder is breathing life back into the Vikings.

hide

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) attempted a pass under pressure in the fourth quarter.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - On the final play of his first NFL victory, Christian Ponder knelt, then popped up, and as the clock ticked to zero, he cradled the game ball and wandered through the mosh pit of players, shaking hands.

Guys have gotten more excited about getting audited. "I don't even know what happened to the whole gun-shooting thing," he said later, poking fun at his touchdown celebration the previous week. "Guess I forgot."

What is most striking about Ponder is the casualness with which he makes the difficult look routine. Sunday, his poise and clutch passing helped the Vikings to a 24-21 decision over Carolina at Bank of America Stadium.

During his first road start in the NFL, Ponder completed 18 of 28 passes for a touchdown and no interceptions. On third downs, he completed nine of 10 passes for seven first downs. Last week, 12 of his 13 completions went for first downs or touchdowns; Sunday, 14 of his 18 completions went for first downs or touchdowns.

This is not a recent development. When the Vikings scouted Ponder, they were impressed by his intelligence and maturity, by his ability to make big plays even when lacking superior weapons. During his last season at Florida State, Ponder completed 45 passes on third down, and 41 of them went for first downs or touchdowns.

Sunday, on third-and-10 or more, he completed four of six attempts, overcoming a lack of talent and speed at wide receiver by relying on Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. "That's just what the defense gave us," Ponder said.

Last week, Ponder's precision in the fourth quarter threatened Aaron Rodgers and the Super Bowl champion Packers; Sunday, he trumped Cam Newton, the first pick in the 2011 draft, down the stretch. While more spectacular, Newton also lost two fumbles and threw a couple of passes that should have been intercepted, while Ponder played as if he's learned from mistakes he hasn't even made yet.

On his way to the team bus, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier talked about Ponder as if he were found money.

"His attitude coming off the field after plays was tremendous," Frazier said. "He was saying, 'We're going to be all right, things are going to be fine.' There was so much positive energy coming from the quarterback position, and he's a rookie, you know? He wasn't going over and sitting on the bench and being quiet.

"It's positive energy that our players are feeding off of. That quarterback position is so vital when it comes to that. You can have leaders at other positions, but that's the center of your team. If that guy has energy and he's making a lot of plays, all of a sudden guys who aren't in that role, their play shifts up, because of the quarterback."

After the game, Frazier slapped hands and distributed hugs in a loud, relieved locker room, while Ponder dressed quietly, slipping a T-shirt over a nasty welt on his back.

Before Sunday, Peterson had 49 receiving yards. Sunday, with the Vikings intent on avoiding turnovers and noticing the Panthers laying back, Ponder completed five passes to Peterson for 76 yards and a touchdown.

On what might have been the key play of the game, Ponder threw a quick pass to Harvin in the flat to beat a blitz, and Harvin spun away from a tackler to extend what would prove to be the game-winning drive.

"I'm extremely excited about the way Christian has taken over the leadership role on our team, and really not just with our offense but asking guys to kind of follow him," Frazier said. "It just gives you a lot of hope for the future of our team."

Donovan McNabb continues to say he should still be the Vikings' starting quarterback. He must be stuck in obstructed-view seating on the bench.

Ponder has given the Vikings life and their season meaning. While he acted like his first NFL victory was no big deal, his coach knows better.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close