Ponder on Ponder: Vikings QB critiques his own play

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 8, 2013 - 9:29 AM
hide

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

Christian Ponder walks into the coaches meeting room at Winter Park. The lights are dimmed, but the brightest moment of his young, enigmatic career is caught in freeze frame on the giant projection screen beyond the far end of a long table. ¶ Vikings 37, Packers 34. ¶ “That was a good game,” says Ponder, looking up at the scoreboard on the screen. “But I expect to play better games than that.”

 

Yes, expectations are high all around as the Vikings open their 2013 regular season at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday. That 37-34 victory over the Packers on Dec. 30, 2012, capped a team-record seven-win improvement, clinched an unexpected wild-card playoff berth and catapulted running back Adrian Peterson to a 2,097-yard season and the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

But …

As you’ve probably noticed by now, anything optimistic that’s said about the 2013 Vikings must be — and always is — followed by these four words: “If only Ponder can …”

“It’s really on Ponder,” said former Vikings receiver and current Fox Sports 1 NFL analyst Randy Moss. “If I could pick any of the three other teams in the [NFC North] to challenge Green Bay, it would be the Minnesota Vikings. Depending on the year Ponder has.”

Ponder seems unfazed by the questions and doubts that swirl about him. Told that ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski ranked him 27th among 32 NFL quarterbacks, right behind Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden, Ponder shrugs and says, “I think a 27th ranking is probably rightfully so with how I’ve played.”

“Look,” Ponder says while seated in the coaches room at Winter Park. “My play last year was up and down. Started off well, middle of the season didn’t play so well and then played well at the end of the season to help us finish 4-0. I made a lot of mistakes, and when there’s a quarterback who people think is prone to a lot of mistakes, there are going to be a lot of questions about him.

“Hopefully, those questions will be answered this year because I think we have good chance to be a great team. Myself, with the pieces around me, this year, I expect progression. I plan on playing like I did in this [win over the Packers] for 16 games in the regular season and more after that.”

Let’s take a closer look at that Packers game. The Vikings needed to win to make the playoffs. The Packers needed to win to clinch a first-round bye. Despite injuring his throwing elbow while taking a hard hit on a delayed blitz by safety Morgan Burnett with 3 minutes, 53 seconds left in the second quarter, Ponder threw three touchdown passes, posted a career-high 120.2 passer rating and didn’t turn the ball over.

Here now are four plays that illustrate what Ponder has proved he can do as the quarterback in a run-oriented, ball-control offense built around Peterson. Obviously, he needs to do them on a more consistent basis, but he knows that. Right now, he has the remote and he is about to take us through these four situations in which he did something many of us have said he can’t do:

1. Ponder has no rhythm!

First-and-10 at the 50, 8:17 left in third quarter, Vikings lead 20-17

The play: Receiver Jerome Simpson, lined up to the right, runs a deep in route. Ponder executes the play-action to Peterson and, in perfect rhythm, laces the ball to Simpson in stride for 21 yards. Eight plays later, Ponder throws a 2-yard touchdown pass to Peterson.

Ponder says: “The play-action is the key, especially when Adrian is running for [199] yards. For us, this is a deep play-action pass. It’s kind of a standard route. We ran it in high school. It’s called Cadillac. Basically, we’re trying to isolate Jerome backside on an in cut and it ends up being zone coverage. We assumed that our guy is going to beat their guy. So, for me, it’s a timing route. Play-action and one to two hitches and get the ball out. Boom. … There was a lot of pressure in this game, but if you look at this play, there’s so much room in the pocket. Anybody can sit back there and throw the ball on this play.”

The obvious question: This was one of only 28 Ponder completions of 20 yards or more last season, by far a league low. So the obvious question is, “Why don’t we see more deep completions in this offense, especially when Peterson is running so well?”

Ponder says: “We call them. We really do. It’s just a matter of who’s coming open and who’s not coming open.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: M. Stroman 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Miami - WP: S. Dyson 6 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 5
NY Yankees - LP: S. Kelley 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Peralta 1
Cincinnati - LP: P. Villarreal 0 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: H. Rondon 1
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Petricka 3 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 4
Cleveland - LP: Z. McAllister 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 3
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: C. Fien 6
Los Angeles 11 Bottom 9th Inning
Colorado 3
San Francisco 2 Bottom 8th Inning
Arizona 6
Seattle 0 Bottom 7th Inning
LA Angels 8
Philadelphia 0 Top 9th Inning
San Diego 1
Philadelphia 30 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
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
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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 do you feel about the decision to reinstate Adrian Peterson?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close