Minnesota Vikings: Tim Jennings

Frazier: No thought to benching Ponder

September, 16, 2013
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Even as Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was struggling in the first half of the team's 31-30 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, coach Leslie Frazier said he didn't think about benching Ponder.

The quarterback rebounded by going 10-for-16 for 146 yards in the second half, directing three scoring drives and shaking off the interception that Tim Jennings returned for a touchdown in the first half. Even after that play, which came in a 6-for-14 first half, Frazier said he didn't contemplate a switch at quarterback.

"I wasn't thinking that," Frazier said. "After the interception, I just wanted to make sure that he was right mentally -- not concerned or just going over and over that interception. I wasn't thinking we needed to take him out. I just wanted to make sure he settled down."

Just like he did in the Vikings' final four games last season, Ponder played his best football on Sunday when the criticism around him was at its loudest. What's somewhat perplexing about the third-year quarterback is why he doesn't play at that level when the pressure's off. But in all likelihood, Ponder bought himself more time as the starting quarterback with how he played in the second half on Sunday, and he'll have another chance at consistency this week in the Vikings' home opener against Cleveland.

"A lot of guys in our sport are like that: When you tell them they can't do something, they raise up and show you they can," Frazier said. "I think it was important for our team. If he doesn't play well late in that game, we're probably going to be in a bad situation in the fourth quarter. It was just good for our team."

Upon Further Review: Vikings Week 2

September, 16, 2013
An examination of four hot issues following the Vikings' 31-30 loss to the Bears:

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsMartellus Bennett's game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds on the clock surprised the Vikings' defense.
1. Final-play frustration: Most of the attention after the game was on Jay Cutler's 16-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left -- and rightfully so, after it appeared Chris Cook was motioning for help to handle the two receivers on his side of the field. Middle linebacker Erin Henderson said the Vikings hadn't practiced the called defense in that situation, adding they were surprised to see it there. Safety Jamarca Sanford was up near the line of scrimmage showing a blitz, ostensibly to disguise the stunt the Vikings ran with Everson Griffen and Jared Allen, but his post-snap drop into coverage meant Harrison Smith started the play as the lone safety in the middle of the field. Smith came over late, and once Cook turned his hips to cover receiver Earl Bennett, he didn't have much chance to account for Bennett, who caught Cutler's back-shoulder throw for the touchdown. "I think I ended up putting him in a bad spot," Smith said. "Put that one on me."

2. Bennett torches Vikings: The catch Bennett had for a touchdown wasn't his first chance to hurt the Vikings yesterday. He caught seven passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns, beating Jamarca Sanford (with the help of a slight pick from Brandon Marshall) for the Bears' first touchdown and gaining 23 yards on a first-and-20 on the Bears' last drive. Henderson pushed Bennett as he ran his route off the middle, but appeared to pass him off after that. There was no one with Bennett in the flat, as Chad Greenway drifted toward Marshall. "We just had some communication issues," Greenway said. "Sometimes when you're in those looks, things move fast. Miscommunication is going to happen. Reality is, we're down to one drive, and we can't let them down there."

3. Ponder picked off: Quarterback Christian Ponder's second-quarter interception, which Tim Jennings returned for a touchdown, might not have been all Ponder's fault; Vikings play-by-play announcer Paul Allen blogged after the game that he was hearing Jerome Simpson was supposed to come back on the route, instead of stopping. Simpson might have been able to fight Jennings for the ball, but Ponder was staring down Simpson during his dropback, and didn't get a chance to drive the ball to the outside of the field. "Terrible play," Ponder said. "If we take away seven points, it's a different ballgame."

4. Williams returns: Defensive tackle Kevin Williams returned from a knee injury he suffered on a low block during Week 3 of the preseason, and intercepted Cutler's goal-line pass in the second quarter. His return also provided a glimpse of how the Vikings will use their defensive tackles. Williams played 40 snaps, and rookie Sharrif Floyd saw 24, with Griffen taking one of the tackle spots in the nickel package. Nose tackles Letroy Guion and Fred Evans split snaps almost evenly; Evans got 25 and Guion -- who stripped Matt Forte of the ball in the fourth quarter -- saw 23.