It took less than 20 seconds for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to bring up Christian Ponder in his post-game press conference after tonight’s 19-3 win over the Titans in the preseason finale, and he again staunchly defended the third-string quarterback.

“I’m especially proud of Christian Ponder because I know there’s been a lot of fans and a lot of people that have really been negative towards him,” Zimmer said. “And the guy’s been nothing but a first-class guy, works hard every single day and went on to perform well tonight.”

Ponder replaced starter Teddy Bridgewater at the 9:26 mark of the second quarter. He completed 12 of his 15 attempts for 121 yards with no touchdowns and no turnovers. He led the offense on three scoring drives and would have gotten them in the end zone if not for a drop at the goal line.

“I feel like I played well,” Ponder said. “There are some plays I’d like back. But overall, I’m pretty proud of the way I played and the way we all played.”

It was Ponder’s first appearance since the preseason opener, when he went just 3-for-7 for 39 yards in the fourth quarter of a 10-6 win over the Raiders. It might also have been a final audition of sorts for Ponder. Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have said they would like to keep three quarterbacks, and there’s no reason to believe Ponder won’t be one of them. But at the very least, this might be the last time Ponder shows up on tape before his contract expires as season’s end.

“We did well and won the game, which is most important,” Ponder said. “I had fun. It was a fun environment to play in with the rain coming down, and we had a good time.”