As news of three player arrests in three weeks dominates nearly all conversations about the Vikings, we’ll use this Three-and-Out segment to discuss some under-the-radar topics. Here goes:
1 Ponder thought about pink slip
Believe it or not, people aren’t talking about the Vikings’ quarterback situation. Yeah, it took three players getting arrested for that to happen, but how strange is it that only three reporters showed up for Christian Ponder’s weekly news conference on Wednesday?
Ponder, who will make his sixth consecutive start on Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Mall of America Field, said this week doesn’t feel any different to him. But it’s the first time in a while that his status was solidified by coach Leslie Frazier as soon as the previous week’s game had ended.
Even Ponder, however, admits he’s somewhat surprised to still be here after a season that’s already seen him benched twice and pushed aside briefly when the team signed Josh Freeman. With more than a month to reflect on his first benching and the Freeman signing, Ponder was asked what was going through his mind at the time.
“Honestly, I wasn’t sure [what to think],” he said. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, if I was going to walk in that next day and have a pink slip in my locker or what. It was an interesting time and I was able to stay focused on what I had to do and, fortunately, was able to swing back and now I’m back out there playing.”
In his first outing against the Bears this season, Ponder completed 53.3 percent of his passes (16 of 30) for 227 yards, one touchdown and an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
2 Teams adjusting to Ponder’s legs
In his first five games this season, Ponder rushed for 143 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries. That’s a 6.0-yard average per carry.
In Ponder’s last three games, he has rushed for 8 yards and no touchdowns on 10 carries. That’s a 0.8-yard average.
So, Christian, what gives? You trying to stay in the pocket longer to make plays with your arm, or what?
“I’m trying to stay in the pocket more, but I think also defenses — I thought Green Bay did a great job of dropping a D-lineman out to spy on me and take [my running] away,” Ponder said. “I think defenses are making adjustments to it.”
Against Seattle on Nov. 17, Ponder ran five times for zero yards with a long of 4. Against the Packers on Sunday, he ran three times for minus-5 yards with a long of 3.
One wouldn’t expect him to have a big day rushing against the Bears. They held him to 18 yards on six carries, with a long of 5 in Chicago’s 31-30 victory at Soldier Field in Week 2.
3 Bears weak against the run
By now, everyone knows the Bears have the league’s worst run defense (145.2 yards allowed per game) by a wide margin over the next-worst team, New England (139.7).
Injuries at multiple positions and the struggles of rookie second-round draft pick Jonathan Bostic at middle linebacker have led to an incredible downfall when it comes to stopping the run. Since injuries forced Bostic into the starting lineup five games ago, the Bears have allowed 209 yards rushing to Washington, 199 to Green Bay, 145 to Detroit, 174 to Baltimore and a season-high 258 to St. Louis.
And now they are catching a healthier Adrian Peterson coming off a season-high 146 yards and one touchdown.
“We know that we are a running team and we need to keep establishing that,” Ponder said. “We know Chicago is ranked fourth from last in allowing 10-plus runs with 45. That’s 45 times guys have rushed for 10 yards a play. So we have to take advantage of that in the run game.”