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Updated: December 22nd, 2011 12:19am
Christian Ponder 'can't play not to lose' in Vikings' last two games

Christian Ponder 'can't play not to lose' in Vikings' last two games

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Multiple veterans in the Minnesota Vikings locker room on Sunday said some teammates played scared in a 42-20 loss to New Orleans.

Count rookie quarterback Christian Ponder among those who need to loosen up.

"I played too conservatively, and that's something I have to learn from," Ponder said on Wednesday. "I can't play not to lose. I have to play to win."

Ponder finished 14-of-31 passing (45.2%) for 120 yards, two touchdowns and a meaningless interception on the final play. He had only 32 passing yards before the Saints built a 29-point lead and began yanking starters in the fourth quarter.

This followed losses to Denver and Detroit in which the Vikings offense moved the ball efficiently at times but was plagued by turnovers, including seven by Ponder. He suggested on Wednesday he might have been overcompensating to make sure he took care of the ball against the Saints.

"I just have to go out and have fun and know that we can make plays left and right and not be conservative with the ball," Ponder said. "I have to make better decisions, which I will. I will just keep getting better in that manner."

On Sunday, Ponder called the Vikings' two remaining games "crucial" and coach Leslie Frazier said he wants "to see what happens" at Washington on Saturday, then at home against Chicago on Jan. 1 before passing judgment on the No. 12 overall draft pick's progress.

Frazier downplayed the gravity of the remainder of the season on Wednesday, though, stressing "you don't want to base your judgment on one or two games" with a young quarterback whose body of work so far is barely half a season.

"You really want to be able to look at what happens over the course of this remaining part of the season along with what happened previously," Frazier said. "Then, give him a chance to have an offseason. He needs an offseason with our coaches and with OTA's and some of the things we'll do in training camp. That's going to help him.

"I think it's a little bit too early to panic about Christian. We have to give him some more opportunities."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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