Christian Ponder must 'play almost mad' for Vikings to get fast start
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder admonished himself after Sunday's win over Jacksonville for the way he played in the early going, saying he had to adjust his mindset on the sideline and create a sense of urgency.
How does he go about playing that way from the start this week at Indianapolis?
"It's just an attitude," Ponder said on Wednesday. "I think mentally just telling myself that I've got to go out and play aggressively and play almost mad.
"I just go out there and play with that sense of urgency and I think that starts with the tempo that you call the play and you break the huddle immediately and you get everyone to get up there and run the play. I think you can control a lot of that in the huddle."
On Sunday, Ponder completed only 3 of 7 passes for 32 yards over the Vikings' first four drives, which netted two first downs total and all ended with punts.
He then completed five in a row for 65 yards over two touchdown drives that turned an early 9-0 deficit into a 14-9 lead a little more than 5 minutes into the third quarter.
Asked what he means by playing mad, Ponder said, "I don't know -- just play with a relentlessness. After those first couple drives, I was mad that I missed a couple throws and just kind of said, 'I'm going to go out here and throw this ball and make plays.' It was almost like playing mad."
The poor start also included a lousy no-huddle sequence on the Vikings' second drive, which gained only 4 yards and brought out boos from the Metrodome crowd. The lack of tempo was obvious.
"With our no-huddle, it can be a very fast-paced offense," Ponder said, "but also, we can slow it down and try to make sure we try to get in the right play and stuff. That's something that we're still trying to implement in this offense."
Ponder also made a poor decision in that sequence that could have been extremely costly, hitting safety Chris Prosinski in the chest with a third-down pass for receiver Percy Harvin because he didn't see the defense shift out of the two-deep look it played most of the day.
"We had a dummy cadence and I was keying the backside safety, and he looked like he was staying Cover-2 during the dummy cadence," Ponder said. "After the snap of the ball, they rotated to single-high, and I just made a bad assumption that they were staying in Cover-2 and immediately looked at the linebackers to make my read.
"My lesson learned is always keep the eyes on the safeties, because those are the guys that tell the truth and everybody else lies. I've got to do a better job of that."
Ponder completed 17 of his last 20 passes to finish 20-of-27 (74.1%) for 270 yards and a 105.5 rating.
Seven players caught at least one pass on a day the Vikings were without starting split end Jerome Simpson, who is suspended until Week 4, and in essence were without No. 2 tight end John Carlson, who only played 18 snaps and was targeted once.
Harvin led the Vikings with six receptions for 84 yards. Tight end Kyle Rudolph had five receptions for 67 yards, including Ponder's long completion for 29 on a stutter route based off the way cornerback Rashean Mathis jumped a similar route earlier in the game.
Perhaps the most important pass Ponder threw all day was a 26-yard completion late in regulation to No. 3 receiver Devin Aromashodu, who adjusted his route and caught the ball on his back shoulder when he felt the coverage to the inside.
The Vikings finished with 389 net yards on offense, good for 10th in the NFL through one week.
"It's very promising and we had a lot of guys step up," Ponder said. "Devin made some big plays out there at the wide receiver position. So, we've got guys that can step up and make plays, and we can move the bal; when we have to."