Poor footwork disrupting accuracy, Vikings QB Christian Ponder says
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder thinks the accuracy issues that plagued him in Sunday's loss to Washington started with his feet.
The Minnesota Vikings' quarterback completed 67.3% of his passes (35-of-52) for 352 yards and two touchdowns but missed his target 11 times, many of them for open receivers.
"The biggest thing was footwork," Ponder said on Wednesday. "The one that I threw short to Kyle (Rudolph), I flipped my feet around. I should have just did it on the run and threw off balance. I had a missed throw to John Carlson on a little corner route that I didn't really set my feet. It's all footwork."
"It's being better moving around in the pocket," Ponder said. "Like the one to Jenkins, I was hitching up because I was looking left and then he was on the right and I just never got my foot all the way to the right. That's why I kind of dropped the ball and it sailed on me."
He also was picked off by Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall on a desperate heave into the end zone in the final minute -- "It was dumb," Ponder said -- giving him four interceptions over the past two games after throwing none the season's first four weeks.
Both interceptions on Oct. 7 against Tennessee were poor throws, too. By and large, the mistakes that have cost Ponder have been mental, not physical.
"I'm not making bad decisions," Ponder said. "It's just something that's easily correctable. I think a lot of it has to do with my footwork and that's something I'll work on this week."
Most obvious is Ponder's tendency to either sit at the top of his drop or drift to his right, rather than stepping up in the pocket -- something he made a conscious effort to do in the second half against the Redskins.
"I think when I get myself in trouble is when I get to the top of my drop and kind of just hop there and sit back there rather than moving forward," Ponder said. "I definitely make a lot of my better throws when I move forward, and that's something I've got to keep continuing getting better at and make that a habit, rather than hopping at the top of my pocket.
"And that's kind of what I did in college and got away with it. Obviously, the ends are rushing upfield a lot more and they're a lot better, so I've got to keep doing a good job of moving forward."
Nevertheless, Ponder ranks second in the NFL in completion percentage (68.6%) and ninth in passer rating (92.4) in a scheme that emphasizes high-percentage throws in the short to intermediate range.
"We'll always work with him on his mechanics," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "There were just a couple throws that got away from him. He's had a chance to look at it on tape now, and Craig Johnson, his position coach, has talked him through some things. We'll always work mechanics, and he'll get better at it."
Ponder admittedly lost confidence as a rookie late last season after a four-turnover performance that led to a benching on Dec. 11 at Detroit.
He said on Wednesday that's "out of my system" and "I'm completely confident in what I'm doing" in his first full season as the starter.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed when I make throws like that," Ponder said. "But it's easy for me to move on, and I think it's important for me to move on. After the game, I'm frustrated what I did. But I've got to play to play and not let it affect me, because ultimately, it'll affect the rest of my teammates."