Notebook: Christian Ponder says execution will be key to improvement
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Quarterback Christian Ponder said Wednesday that he does not feel he is pressing, but he knows the Minnesota Vikings' passing offense must start executing better beginning with Sunday's game in Seattle.
"Everything is fixable, so we just have to fix it," said Ponder, who has thrown seven interceptions in the past four games after having none in the first four. "For us to go into a place like Seattle, it's going to be important to start early and start fast. To go a couple three and outs at the beginning of the game isn't going to be good. I think every game that Seattle's played in they've been the first offense to score."
Ponder struggled in the Vikings' 21-14 victory over Arizona on Oct. 21, throwing for only 58 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The following Thursday, he again looked shaky in a 36-17 loss against Tampa Bay.
The Cardinals are ranked fourth against the pass and the Buccaneers are 31st. Seattle is fifth in overall defense in the NFL and 13th against the pass.
Ponder said there isn't just one thing that ails the Vikings' passing game, and added that he needs to continue to put his focus on stepping up in the pocket and not flushing left or right.
"It goes back to execution," he said. "We have to do a better job. We've been seeing a lot of pressure. I've got to do a better job of getting the ball out of my hands. I think teams have realized that. My biggest thing is I can't take a negative play.
"We would rather throw the ball away and get it out of my hands than take a sack on first down or throw an interception. We're always looking to have positive plays and limit the negative plays. We're going to get things clicking. We faced two great defenses the past two weeks and obviously we're going to face another one this week. But we're going to keep improving."
Wide receiver Percy Harvin said Monday that Ponder isn't the only player on offense at fault and brought up the subject of the receivers running better routes.
"That's probably something we need to work on and it's something we're going to focus on this week," Ponder said. "Focusing on certain routes we're really going to utilize in the game and work on that timing.
"That's the biggest thing we've talked about is working on those fundamentals and our technique and getting back to that. That's something Peyton Manning has always talked about when he's not playing well. He goes back to his fundamentals and watches himself and fixes himself. That's something we're definitely looking at."
Bringing the pressure
Ponder has been seeing blitz pressure from opposing defenses, but coach Leslie Frazier said he isn't sure that's necessarily being done to limit the passing game. Rather, it appears to be an attempt to slow running back Adrian Peterson, who leads the NFL with 775 yards rushing this season.
"I think the production of Adrian has a lot to do with it," Frazier said. "Some of the things we're getting pressure wise, it is to defeat our run game. One of the ways to offset that is to make some plays in the passing game, if they're having success.
"I don't know if some of those pressures were dialed up particularly for our quarterback, but we'll see as we go forward. We'll see how Seattle tries to approach us and how they're going to defend what we do in the run game as well."
Percy Harvin is tied with Wes Welker for the NFL lead in receptions with 60 this season, but the 5-foot-11, 184-pound wide receiver will face an interesting matchup when he splits out wide against the Seahawks corners.
Left corner Richard Sherman is 6-foot-3, 195 pounds and right corner Brandon Browner is 6-4, 221 pounds. Strong safety Kam Chancellor is 6-3, 232 pounds and while free safety Earl Thomas is a bit smaller at 5-10, he weighs 202 pounds.
"They do have a big, physical group back there," Frazier said. "The safeties are big, the corners are big, you don't usually see four across with the size that they have. ... They do a good job of getting their hands on you and playing press coverage. They're a little bit different, although we see press coverage. I don't know if we see it as consistently with the size that we'll see on Sunday."
• The Vikings have an open roster spot with cornerback Chris Cook (broken arm) having been placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. The NFL's trading deadline is not until 3 p.m. Thursday but Frazier was vague when asked about a potential move.
• The Vikings practiced with crowd noise blaring Wednesday, something that isn't unusual and is necessary this week given how loud Seattle's CenturyLink Field gets despite being open air. "The fans do a good job of getting in the game early and making it hard on offenses and teams in general to function, much like our fans here," Frazier said.
• Seattle wide receiver Braylon Edwards (knee) and defensive end Jason Jones (ankle) did not take part in practice on Wednesday. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin (ankle), cornerback Byron Maxwell (hamstring) and guard John Moffitt (knee) were limited. Running back Marshawn Lynch was listed on the injury report with a back issue but did not miss any practice time.
• The Vikings recently worked out nose tackle Isaako Aaitui. Aaitui played college football at UNLV and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Miami Dolphins in 2011. He spent the season on the Dolphins' practice squad. Aaitui went to camp with the Dolphins again this summer, but was claimed off waivers by the New York Jets on Sept. 1. However, he was waived three days later after suffering a knee injury during his first practice with the Jets. It's not expected the Vikings will sign him.