Scoggins: QB the glamour position? Not so Sunday

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 22, 2012 - 6:30 AM

Both QBs struggled mightily as Skelton hit a cheerleader and Ponder couldn't hit anybody.

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The Minnesota Vikings beat the Arizona Cardinals 21- 14 in an NFL game October 21, 2012 at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis, Minn. Vikings' quarterback Christian Ponder intended to throw to Kyle Rudolph, right, but the pass was picked off by Arizona's Paris Lenon, rear, on the first play of the second quarter.

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Christian Ponder completed one pass for 4 yards in the second half Sunday.

Arizona's John Skelton threw a pass so off the mark that it sailed over Larry Fitzgerald's head and drilled a cheerleader in the back.

Ponder passed for 58 yards in posting a basement-level 35.5 passer rating.

Skelton was sacked seven times and threw a pick-six.

Yes, it was a tough day to be a quarterback at Mall of America Field, so much so that Jerry Kill considered taking the redshirt off McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Defenses ruled the day and the Vikings got enough production from Adrian Peterson to survive with a 21-14 victory that left their quarterback gritting his teeth at the postgame podium.

"We just couldn't find plays, couldn't get into a rhythm," Ponder said. "A lot of that is my fault. I've got to step up and play better."

The Vikings should feel good about their 5-2 record. However, Ponder's performance -- particularly his decision-making on two first-half interceptions -- left a nagging feeling that counterbalanced Peterson's hard-charging effort against a stout Cardinals defense.

Ponder's final stat line reflected his mood: 8 of 17 passing for 58 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. He was sacked three times, pressured consistently and completed only one of seven attempts in the second half.

"Christian is going to be fine," coach Leslie Frazier said. "He'll keep improving. It's just part of the process with all of our players."

Ponder's rash of turnovers in recent games is reminiscent of last season and particularly troubling. He has seven turnovers -- six interceptions and one fumble -- the past three games after throwing zero interceptions in his first four.

Ponder blamed his interceptions the previous two weeks on poor throws rather than questionable decision-making. That wasn't the case Sunday.

His first interception came in the second quarter with the Vikings at their own 13. He felt pressure, scrambled right and spotted tight end Kyle Rudolph. Ponder threw across his body and his pass went high and behind Rudolph and into the arms of linebacker Paris Lenon. The Cardinals turned that turnover into seven points.

"It's never smart to throw across your body like that," Ponder said. "As a quarterback, I can make that throw. That's an easy throw to make. Looking back, I probably should have run it."

The Vikings offense and coaching staff probably would like a do-over on a bizarre sequence at the end of the first half that nearly gave Arizona free points. Leading 14-7, the Vikings got the ball at their own 13 with 50 seconds left. Both Frazier and Ponder said the plan was to attempt to score, but the execution suggested otherwise.

The Vikings didn't run out the clock but they didn't exactly go for it, either. They just kind of fumbled around until the quarterback made a mistake.

Ponder scrambled for 2 yards on first down, but the Vikings didn't snap the next play until there were 19 seconds left. Ponder completed a 6-yard pass to Percy Harvin and the Vikings called a timeout with 14 seconds left.

On third-and-2, Ponder avoided pressure by scrambling. He said he wanted to throw the ball out of bounds, but his arm got hit, resulting in an interception by Sam Acho. But the Vikings caught a break as Jay Feely missed a 47-yard field goal as the half ended.

Ponder's miscues prompted the Metrodome crowd to offer up a Bronx cheer after he threw a pass away early in the second half.

"That's not a bad thing," Frazier said of the throw away. "More occasions like that will help us in those moments when he gets flushed out of the pocket."

Perhaps like that final play of the first half?

"Not a bad idea," Frazier said, smiling.

Ponder admitted he's forced the issue too many times in recent games, which we didn't see earlier this season. He also said Arizona's constant pressure and variety of blitzes disrupted him. Whatever the case, Ponder needs to find the formula that worked so well for him through the first quarter of the season.

"I've got to do a better job of getting rid of it quicker and getting it out of my hands," he said.

Well, at least he didn't hit a cheerleader.

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