Ponder can't afford an alarming outing

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 8, 2012 - 10:06 AM
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Christian Ponder against the Packers

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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Our snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Bears at Mall of America Field.

PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT christian ponder

The Vikings quarterback called last week's stinker in Green Bay a "wake-up call." Actually, it was more like an annoying snooze alarm that Christian Ponder has been hitting and going back to sleep on over the past seven games.

When the Vikings were 4-1 heading to Washington, Ponder ranked 10th in the league with a 95.5 passer rating. He had completed 69 percent of his passes for 1,082 yards (216.4 per game), six touchdowns and two interceptions.

Today, he's 25th in passer rating (79.4). In his past seven starts, he's 2-5 while completing 58 percent of his passes for 1,219 yards (174.1), eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.

"I know that I need to play better," Ponder said.

Doing so is another matter. This is Ponder's 23rd career start. It's also the most important one to date. If he fails Sunday, the final three games this season won't mean as much in evaluating Ponder because the pressure of being in the playoff race will have disappeared.

MOST PRESSING QUESTION

Can the Vikings' defense hold on third down?

Better yet, can the Vikings force the Bears into third-and-long situations?

During their 28-10 rout of the Vikings two weeks ago, the Bears had 19 third downs. Fourteen of them were third-and-6 or shorter. They converted 11 of those situations (78.6) and were 0-for-5 on third-and-8 or longer, with one of those a kneel down to end the game.

To compensate for horrendous pass protection, the Bears have been running shorter routes with quicker dropbacks of late. It's a tactic that's less successful in third-and-long situations.

"Third-and-7, plus," said cornerback Antoine Winfield. "That's the goal we're looking for to get us off the field and give the offense a chance."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Running back Matt Forte

To force third-and-long situations, the Vikings have to stop running back Matt Forte on first down.

Forte had a quiet game two weeks ago, rushing for only 42 yards on 14 carries (3.0) before leaving with an ankle injury. He touched the ball 24 times for 96 yards and a touchdown in last week's loss to Seattle. He also should be a bigger presence on Sunday with Michael Bush (ribs) listed as questionable.

Two weeks ago, Forte ran the ball eight times on first down. Five times, he gained four or five yards. Second-and-5 is a dangerous down against the Jay Cutler-to- Brandon Marshall passing combo.

BEARS SCOOP

Love him or hate him, Jay Cutler wins football games. In fact, since Week 16 of the 2009 season, he has won more often than all but five other NFL quarterbacks.

Among QBs with a minimum of 10 starts during that stretch, Cutler is No. 6 with a winning percentage of .711. He's 27-11, including 8-3 this year.

New England's Tom Brady is first at .804 (37-9), followed by Atlanta's Matt Ryan (.783, 36-10), Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (.773, 34-10), Baltimore's Joe Flacco (.739, 34-12) and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (.730, 27-10).

It's also wise not to get into a close game down the stretch with Cutler. His 134.9 fourth-quarter passer rating is 23.1 points higher than the next highest total, a 111.8 mark that belongs to Rodgers.

INJURIES, FINES, MOVES

The Bears have no sympathy for Percy Harvin landing on the Vikings' injured reserve. They'll play Sunday's game without linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring), cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder) and receiver Earl Bennett (concussion).

• Everson Griffen of the Vikings was fined $15,750 for roughing the Packers' Rodgers on Sunday. Griffen was flagged for roughing Rodgers on a second-quarter play that nullified an interception by teammate Jared Allen. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley drew a $7,875 fine for grabbing the facemask of Randall Cobb on a play that drew no penalty flag.

• Former Chargers receiver Bryan Walters, who was with the Vikings in training camp this season, was one of three wideouts who worked out for the team on Friday.

• The Vikings promoted offensive tackle Troy Kropog from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. He takes the roster spot that opened when Harvin was placed on injured reserve.

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Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore - W. Chen 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Pineda
Kansas City - D. Duffy 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
Seattle - J. Paxton 6:07 PM
Toronto - J. Happ
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 6:08 PM
Detroit - K. Lobstein
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
Arizona - J. Collmenter 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 0 2nd Prd
NY Rangers 0
Detroit 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) 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
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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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 NoonX20-9
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

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