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.


Christian Ponder: A year older -- and wiser

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Vikings players, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin Updated: September 10, 2012 - 5:37 PM

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and quarterback Christian Ponder agree on one thing: If what happened in Sunday’s victory over Jacksonville had happened a year ago, the Vikings might not  have been talking about a victory.

Both were asked Monday what Ponder had done Sunday that he might not have been able to do as a rookie. Both referred to the drive at the end of regulation that set up Blair Walsh’s game-tying 55-yard field goal. Ponder hit Devin Aromashodu for 26 yards on the first play of the drive. Then, after a timeout, Ponder hit tight end Kyle Rudolph on an out pattern for six more yards to the Jaguars’ 37-yard line.

“It would have been tougher, for sure (last season),” Ponder said. “Honestly I don’t know if I would have been able to do it. I’m so much more comfortable (now). I truly believe we can overcome anything, and if we execute the right way that we can make plays when we need to.”

Sunday was a tale of two halves for the offense. Ponder struggled early, right up until the touchdown drive late in the second quarter, which was ignited with his short passes that receiver Percy Harvin turned into significant gains.

What was the difference?

“Going back and watching the film, the first half was obviously not where we wanted to be, up until that last drive,” he said. “The thing that changed was, I think, I changed my whole mindset. I’m just going to go out and throw the ball and not be hesitant, kind of create that sense of urgency where we need to score.”

But, just for the record, Ponder did hear the boos that were coming from the Metrodome stands early on.

“Yeah, I heard them,” Ponder said. “But it doesn’t bother me. Obviously we weren’t playing well, so I deserved to get booed, I guess.”

A special memento

It’s been a hectic day for rookie kicker Blair Walsh after his impressive NFL debut. After making four field goals – including that 55-yarder that forced overtime – Walsh was inundated with calls and texts from friends and former coaches.

“I enjoyed talking to people I haven’t talked to in a while,” he said.

But the most interesting thing to happen? Having Vikings owner Zygi Wilf throw his tie at him.

Yes, you heard that right.

Walsh was asked if he got the football from either the game-tying or game-winning field goals. He did not; Walsh said he’s not normally a big memento guy.  But then:

“The cool thing is our owner, Zygi Wilf, gave me his tie after the game,” Walsh said. “I guess that’s his thing to do, sort of a gift tie to whatever player he felt like he wanted to give it to that game. That was funny.”

Apparently Wilf only does this occasionally, if the moment is right. And what better moment than a rookie showing both a big leg and cool nerves in his first game? No wonder Wilf went to the necktie.

“Like literally off his neck and threw it at me,” Walsh said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was like, ‘All right.’ … I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. It’s a nice thing to have, and it’s a nice (tie). I couldn’t even read whatever the brand was, that’s usually a good sign. I didn’t want to touch it, or smell it or anything like that. I just sort of put it in the locker.”

A good luck tap

Walsh has learned a lot about the NFL in one short game. For example, as he was going onto the field for the 55-yard attempt, running back Adrian Peterson came up and slapped him, hard, on the helmet.

“He kind of turned it actually,” Walsh said. “I was laughing when I was running on the field because I couldn’t believe he just did that. Most people don’t even want to touch the kicker or talk to him or anything. Christian (Ponder) just gave me a little low high-five as I was walking by, and (Peterson) went and slapped my helmet. I don’t think he knows how strong he is.”

But Walsh said it kept him loose. “It actually kind of broke my concentration a little bit,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that was ridiculous. I’m just going to go hit this kick.’ ‘’

Quick hit

--Defensive end Jared Allen said that, after reviewing the film, he might have deserved a sack Sunday. He got to Blaine Gabbert in the first quarter, but was called for being offside. “After watching the film it was close,” Allen said. “It was pretty much either way. So I have to make up for that with a couple more now that they took that one from me.”

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