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.


Key third downs biggest difference between Ponder, McNabb

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, NFC, Bernard Berrian Updated: October 31, 2011 - 11:23 AM

We shouldn't fault Donovan McNabb for saying "absolutely" when asked if he still deserves to be the Vikings' starting quarterback. He's a proud veteran who's had a nice career, so let him hold onto his pride and belief in himself.

However, boy of boy, how wrong he is.

On the most critical of downs for a quarterback -- third down -- it's rookie Christian Ponder who has played like the veteran and McNabb who played like the rook.

Let's examine the numbers on third down in the fourth quarter of the five games McNabb finished and the three games in which Ponder played the fourth quarter. There is no comparison.

McNabb: 

Pass attempts: 12

Completions: 4

Conversions: 2 (one TD).

Conversions of third-and-6 or longer: 1.

Runs for conversions: 0.

Ponder:

Pass attempts: 14

Completions: 10

Conversions: 8

Conversions of third-and-6 or longer: 8.

Runs for conversions: 1.

With McNabb at quarterback in the fourth quarter, the Vikings were 4 of 15 on third down, with McNabb responsible for two of the conversions. With Ponder, they are 10 of 16 on third down, with Ponder responsible for nine of the conversions. 

Also of note: Five of McNabb's 8 incompletions on third down in the fourth quarter were intended for now-former Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian.

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