Vikings QB Ponder quietly moves past struggles
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The most glaringly bad performance by Christian Ponder in a season marked by costly mistakes and curious decisions had just concluded, and the skepticism about his viability as Minnesota's quarterback was as prevalent as ever.
As for Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, well, his faith in Ponder was never clearer.
After Ponder threw two devastating interceptions in the third quarter at Green Bay that day, one in the end zone with Minnesota leading, 14-10, and the other at the Packers 13-yard line with the Vikings trailing, 20-14, the playoffs appeared improbable. They were 6-6 and facing a difficult four-game segment at the end of the schedule. Ponder's future as the starter looked tenuous.
So Frazier, anticipating the swirl of speculation and criticism from the analysts and the fans, sought out Ponder in the locker room at Lambeau Field to assure him the team was still behind him. Adrian Peterson gave him a pep talk, too.
“I don't want you to walk in there with any doubt about your future here as our starting quarterback,” Frazier told Ponder before his postgame news conference. “Next ballgame, you're going to be our starter.”
The Vikings finished with four straight wins to secure a wild-card spot, and though Peterson and the defense had a lot to do with the rally, Minnesota wouldn't have qualified for the postseason without improvement by Ponder. Yes, the Vikings are Peterson's team, but Ponder is ultimately the one most responsible for their progress.
“Obviously, a lot has changed. I think the biggest thing for me was making better decisions,” Ponder said. “Obviously, I made some bad decisions in that first game. It's something that I knew I had to improve upon. I think each week it's gotten better.”
First, he had to eliminate those turnovers. In victories over Chicago and at St. Louis, Ponder's efficiency improved, and his last interception of the year came Dec. 9 against the Bears. The Vikings were more conservative than usual with the pass, though, asking Ponder to do even less. Safe, short throws were about all he tried.
Without his favorite receiver since Percy Harvin's injury on Nov. 4, Ponder has had a tougher time finding open targets. But his patchwork group, while never being confused with the collection of standouts the Packers have at their disposal, has begun to give him more help. Jarius Wright, Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson all made tough catches Sunday against Green Bay.
“I don't think my confidence ever really was shaken or anything. I think it just goes back to obviously understanding what I can and can't do. I can't force things that aren't there,” Ponder said.
He acknowledged Tuesday how much he appreciated the assurance from Frazier, Peterson and others.
“It was a tough situation, and I was very hard on myself, so it was good to hear,” Ponder said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.