Christian Ponder brushes off rough night: 'We'll be ready for Week 1'
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MINNEAPOLIS -- If this was it for the Minnesota Vikings' starting offense in the preseason, it wasn't the way Christian Ponder and company wanted to go out.
In nine drives before the first string departed in Friday's 12-10 loss to San Diego, the Vikings gained 158 yards and 12 first downs, scoring just three points and turning over the ball three times.
"We never really got a rhythm," Ponder said. "When we get the ball, it's always important for us to set a tone, and not only did we go three-and-out on the first drive, but on the second drive as well and started off with an incompletion on the very first play."
Ponder had his shakiest performance in three exhibition outings, completing 9 of 16 passes for 115 yards with a bad interception and taking five sacks.
"I think I got myself in trouble," Ponder said. "We talked about it on the sidelines. I was getting back on the top of my drop and kind of just sitting there, and that puts a lot of pressure on our tackles, and I can do a better job of stepping up and moving forward."
Lex Hilliard and Matt Asiata lost fumbles, with the latter stopping the starters' best and final drive at the 3-yard line early in the third quarter. Another backup halfback, undrafted rookie Derrick Coleman, fumbled at the Chargers' 18 in the fourth quarter.
"To turn the ball over four times," coach Leslie Frazier said, "whether it's the preseason or regular season -- it's hard to win in our league when it happens."
The Vikings' starters did get into scoring range two other times. But both ended with field-goal attempts for Blair Walsh, who missed wide left from 45 yards early in the second quarter and connected from 29 with 8 seconds left in the half.
In five previous preseason possessions against San Francisco and Buffalo, the Vikings offense had generated 16 points -- a touchdown and four field-goal attempts, three of them made.
"This team, we've been grinding since day one of training camp," receiver Percy Harvin said. "The receivers and the quarterback, we're starting to get rhythm as far as the quarterbacks throwing before we get out of breaks, things like that. So, we're coming.
Ponder's most costly mistake was the interception, which came on third-and-3 from the Chargers' 38 -- again with the Vikings on the edge of scoring range after a 40-yard completion to Harvin.
"We had talked about throwing a quick burst route to Percy out there," Ponder said. "They completely disregarded (Michael) Jenkins on his route and the guy (cornerback DeAndre Presley) just buzzed underneath there and picked it."
Presley said the Vikings ran the same play on their first drive, but he slipped and missed an interception chance then.
"This time, the quarterback stared the route down and I jumped in front of it," Presley said. "It was a big blessing."
The Vikings starters' other great scoring opportunity came on a post route Ponder put on the money to Harvin, who had it slip through his fingertips.
"I just kind of lost it with the light and on top," Harvin said. "He threw a great ball. If he throws balls like that, we're going to be all right."
The Vikings' lone touchdown came with 1 minute, 50 seconds to go on a 1-yard pass from third-string quarterback Sage Rosenfels to Asiata.
The expectation is the starters will play sparingly if at all in Thursday's preseason finale at Houston. Ponder wouldn't say whether he'd like more time after the way things went on Friday.
"I think a lot of people were looking at this as a telltale sign of where we were at," Ponder said. "We still did well in the first two weeks, and we can take a lot of positives out of that and this game as well. We moved the ball. We just shot ourselves in the foot at the wrong times. We'll be ready for Week 1."