MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder kept reiterating that he 'expects' to be the starter in the next game on Nov. 17 at the Seattle Seahawks.
However, this time it wasn't because of a dismal performance that catapulted his status into question. Ponder completed 17-of-21, setting the franchise's completion percentage mark (81%) against the Redskins as he threw for two touchdowns in the 34-27 win on Thursday night.
Ponder would likely be the unquestioned starter heading into the next game, but a dislocated shoulder took him out at the end of the third quarter and he did not return. He walked around the locker room postgame in a sling on his non-throwing shoulder.
"My expectations are I'm going to be back next week. I'll do everything I can to be back next Sunday," Ponder said. "I got hit hard on the right side, I think just the impact against the ground caused it to come out of place. He hit me pretty hard, but I heard he got knocked out of the game too, so that's good."
Redskins' cornerback DeAngelo Hall left the game with a concussion and did not return either after he hit Ponder on a 14-yard run that fell just shy of the endzone.
"That guy never quits. He's been abused a little bit this year by media and fans. He never wavers, he never quits; he just stays focused and does what he can do to help our team," tight end John Carlson said. "He made some great plays for us today and showed a lot of heart on that run. I don't know who hit him, but whoever hit him hit him hard."
Head trainer Eric Sugarman and the training staff popped Ponder's shoulder back into place, but had to hold him out.
"At first I didn't know what was going on. They popped it back in palace and I was able to move it fine," Ponder said. "I thought maybe I'd have a chance to go in. There was pain and everything, and it was probably smart to not let me go. I don't know if I would've been limited our not."
Coach Leslie Frazier would not say if Matt Cassel, who filled in for Ponder in the fourth quarter, or Josh Freeman would start if Ponder could not go.
In his sixth start of the season, Ponder got his first win and will likely be the starter next time he's healthy.
"To go 0-3 first three games, lose the job and get injured, and come back and lose two more," Ponder said. "Then come in this game and play well and get injured."
"But winning cures all, winning is a great feeling."
Ponder is 13-19 as a starter in his career, but his most recent win is his most important as it likely secures his job in the short run. He looked as comfortable as he has all season, recuperating after an opening-drive interception on a deep attempt to receiver Greg Jennings to miss on just three throws until his early exit.
His 32nd start was his first without tight end Kyle Rudolph, who missed his first game with a broken foot. Ponder instead found Carlson for seven catches on seven targets for 98 yards and his first touchdown as a member of the Vikings.
After signing Freeman midseason, it was assumed Ponder was put on the clock. Instead, Ponder has continued to battle through his inconsistencies at will of Frazier, who was rewarded with his second win in nine games this season by putting Ponder back under center.
The coaching staff has also asked for more of Ponder's input, he said. Much different than in Week 2, when Ponder wasn't given a check out of a run play on 3rd-and-goal from the Chicago Bears' four-yard line. The Vikings had called a running play that was stuffed for no gain as they ultimately lost the game by one point on the next Bears' drive.
Whether its checks at the line of scrimmage, input on the week's game prep or sideline adjustments, Ponder has been able to drive more of the play calling - and it's showed as he's appeared more comfortable in pulling the trigger.
"Fortunately, I've had the abililty to have more of a voice, and I appreciate that," Ponder said.
"Like during the week, going through the game plan [I have more of a voice]. We still have conversations along the sideline: 'do you like this play being called, what do you think?'" Ponder said. "Throughout the week and in the games, we have a continual conversation."