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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Bill Musgrave talks Ponder's growth and Simpson's speed

Posted by: under Vikings, Adrian Peterson Updated: September 27, 2012 - 2:43 PM

All throughout Christian Ponder’s rookie year, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was asked in different ways what he could do to boost the young quarterback’s confidence or at least keep it from plummeting. And Musgrave always clung to a simple refrain.

“Confidence,” he’d say, “only comes from demonstrated performance.”

So now, heading into Week 4, Ponder has three games of demonstrated performance to use as confidence fuel. He has a .701 completion percentage and a 104.9 rating. He led an incredible game-tying field goal drive in the closing seconds of regulation against Jacksonville, aiding an overtime win. He threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in Indianapolis to rally the Vikings out of a 20-6 hole. And he turned in an impressive effort against San Francisco, throwing for 198 yards and two scores and adding 33 rushing yards and another TD.

“He has played better each and every week, both mentally and physically,” Musgrave said. “It shows in our results, that’s for sure.”

Musgrave said Ponder’s effort last week was probably the best of his young NFL career so far.

“He played well against Green Bay last year. He threw for 381 yards against the Denver defense last year,” Musgrave said. “But there were those mistakes that made it tough for us to get the victory. The quickest way to lose in this league is to beat yourself. Last year, we did some good things. But he had some untimely mistakes that caused it to be really tough for us to get the outcome we want. We want to keep playing at a high level. But number one we don’t want to beat ourselves.”

Trained well

That 2-yard TD pass Ponder threw to Kyle Rudolph early in the fourth quarter last week? Musgrave was impressed that Ponder recognized the blitz and threw to Rudolph in a one-on-one mismatch situation, which eliminated any concern over the fact that Ponder didn’t see Adrian Peterson uncovered and all alone in the end zone on the play.

“You can’t count on the defense screwing it up,” Musgrave said. “And they screwed it up. They didn’t cover Adrian. So [Christian] has been trained to give ground and give Kyle a catchable ball when they do bring one more than we can block. They ended up bringing two more than we could block because the guy who was covering Adrian declined to do so.

Simpson synopsis

Here’s Musgrave on receiver Jerome Simpson, coming back off a three-game suspension and readying to make his Vikings debut in Detroit: “It adds another chapter to our offense. He’s got more burst and more top-end speed than any of our receivers that we have on the roster right now. … He’s quick off the line. Good body control and a lot of top-end speed.”


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