Vikings get the victory despite a rough day for QB Christian Ponder
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The common refrain as the Minnesota Vikings started the season 3-1 was that while Christian Ponder might not have been at the top of his game, the second-year quarterback also wasn't turning over the ball and making dumb mistakes.
But even though the Vikings now sit at 5-2 after Sunday's 21-14 victory over Arizona at the Metrodome, it's no longer possible to say Ponder isn't making mistakes. Two days shy of celebrating the one-year anniversary of his first NFL start, Ponder had one of his worst outings in 17 career starts.
He completed only eight of 17 passes for 58 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Ponder also was sacked three times and registered an anemic 35.5 passer rating. That was the worst rating he has posted in a game that he started and finished.
"Obviously, as an offense, especially me, we didn't perform as well as we should have," Ponder said. "The Cardinals have a very good defense. They'll finish in the top 10 defenses at the end of the year. We just couldn't find a pace, couldn't get into a rhythm and a lot of that is my fault. I have to step up and play better."
Ponder has turned over the ball seven times in the past three games, including six interceptions. In the second half Sunday, he had only one completion for 4 yards and the Vikings punted five consecutive times.
The Cardinals' first interception of Ponder came on a second-quarter pass that was intended for tight end Kyle Rudolph but ended up in the hands of linebacker Paris Lenon at the Vikings 16-yard line. Four plays later, Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling scored on a 3-yard run to tie it up at 7-7.
Ponder's second interception came as time was running out in the first half and he was under pressure. Instead of taking a sack or throwing the ball away, Ponder attempted to force a pass to Adrian Peterson but Arizona linebacker Sam Acho got the pick at the Vikings 29 with five seconds left in the second quarter.
Ponder said his arm was hit as he was throwing the ball. In reality, the decision by the coaching staff to put their quarterback in that position with so little time left in the half was curious at best.
The Vikings got a big break as Jay Feely's 47-yard field-goal attempt went wide right as time expired
Ponder led off his postgame press conference by saying, "It's a good thing to be disappointed when you're 5-2," and he clearly talked like a guy who didn't play well.
However, he also realizes this team is now capable of winning a game like Sunday's.
"To win an ugly-looking game like this is huge," he said. "It shows how good of a team we are and that we can win as a team. We're not relying on one side of the ball. Offense obviously had an off day today and the defense picked it up.
"Special teams won us the Detroit game (in Week 4). We're doing a really great job of finding ways to win. We have to make a progression week to week and make sure that as an offense, we don't perform again like we did today."
Ponder and coach Leslie Frazier both said they were happier with the quarterback's footwork, something that was an issue a week ago in the Vikings' loss at Washington. Ponder threw two interceptions in that game as well.
"I think he did a real good job," with his footwork, Frazier said. "Maybe in the third or fourth quarter he got flushed and threw the ball out of bounds. It's not a bad thing when you get flushed out of the pocket and more occasions like that will help us in those moments when he gets flushed out of bounds."
Ponder did not miss any practice time last week but he was listed on the injury report because of an issue with the bursa sac in his right knee that has been bothering him since he injured it on Sept. 30 at Detroit.
In the second quarter, Ponder appeared to be limping a bit after he took a hit from Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington on a sack. Ponder denied that any of his issues Sunday involved the knee.
"No, I don't think so," he said. "The knee thing has been around for a little bit but that didn't really hurt me, no."