Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


What should have unfolded on Christian Ponder's improvised TD run

Posted by: under On the road, Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Adrian Peterson, Brian Robison, Leslie Frazier Updated: December 19, 2012 - 1:27 PM

Believe it or not, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder had more to talk about than just his marriage Wednesday. In revisiting Sunday’s 36-22 win in St. Louis, Ponder again noted the significance of the Vikings’ opening drive, a 45-yard touchdown march that set the tone for the day.

On a series in which Adrian Peterson was stopped for minus-3 yards on five rushes, Ponder’s playmaking proved key in sparking the Vikings to an early 7-0 lead.

Included on the march: an 11-yard completion for a first down to Jerome Simpson and a key 13-yard connection to Stephen Burton on third-and-14.

The latter put the Vikings in position to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 7. Ponder converted that play with a frenetic 3-yard scramble.

“On fourth down, obviously we love coach going for it,” he said. “As players we love that. He took the risk and we converted, which was big.”

Moments later on third-and-goal from the 5, Ponder finished the drive with an improvised touchdown run. The designed play called for a pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph. But Rudolph was double-covered coming off the right side of the line. Ponder’s second option would have been to Michael Jenkins, running an out route against Bradley Fletcher on the outside to the right.

But once Robert Quinn blew by Charlie Johnson, penetrated the backfield and slapped Ponder in the face, the quarterback instinctively took off and dove in for the score.

“We knew that winning on the road is hard,” Ponder said. “And for us to do it, we have to start fast. And it was crucial to finish that first drive.”

Griffen’s maturation obvious

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier had high praise for defensive lineman Everson Griffen on Wednesday. Griffen’s interception and 29-yard return for a touchdown was one of the key plays in Sunday’s win and it continued an encouraging season for Griffen. The third-year lineman has been active all year long when on the field and has continued to produce even after experiencing a significant emotional blow in October when his mother unexpectedly passed away while visiting.

Here’s what Frazier had to say of Griffen: “He’s come so far. I talk to him about it often. Just seeing the maturation, even through this last offseason, being able to manage his free time, understanding what it means to become a pro and to act like a pro both at practice and in games as well. And he’s one of the guys that as we speak has really bought into the right way of doing things. … He’s one of those guys who has paid attention and listened.”

Frazier said he is proud of Griffen’s continuing maturity and the emotional toughness he’s shown the past two months.

“The tragedy that he faced this season, losing his mother, that was hard,” Frazier said. “But the way he responded, even in the midst of that tragedy, you take your hat off to him with how courageous he is. And I’ve told him, I know his mother would be extremely proud of him and the way he’s handled himself. He’s come a long way”

Injury updates

  • Defensive end Brian Robison won’t practice this afternoon, sidelined by a Grade 3 sprain of his acromioclavicular joint in his right shoulder. Frazier said Robison would be day-to-day and that Robison’s status for this weekend’s game would be up in the air until Friday afternoon.
  • Left tackle Matt Kalil is only sitting out Wednesday’s practice with an illness.
  • Cornerback Chris Cook, meanwhile, will be back on the field and will be eligible to rejoin the active roster on Thursday. Cook has missed the Vikings’ past six games with a broken bone in his right arm. But he is cleared to play and should be back on the field Sunday in Houston in some capacity.

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