Wednesday, September 11, 2013
QB Watch: Vikings' Christian Ponder
By Ben Goessling
A weekly analysis of the Vikings' quarterback play:
Rewind: Christian Ponder went 18-for-28 in the Vikings' season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions, throwing three interceptions and botching a handoff with Adrian Peterson as the Vikings fell 34-24. Ponder threw for 236 yards and looked more willing to go downfield than he did at times last year, but his second interception in particular -- which came when Ponder was trying to get away from Ndamukong Suh in Lions territory late in the first half -- cost the Vikings a chance to take the game in a different direction. The Lions scored after the interception to pull within a point at halftime, and with Detroit slowing down Peterson, Ponder was unable to answer.
Fast-forward: When the Vikings travel to Chicago this weekend to face the Bears, Ponder will have to turn things around in a venue where he's had some of his worst moments in the pros. He left the last game of his rookie season with a hip injury in Chicago, and went 22-for-43 there last year, throwing for just 159 yards despite firing his second-most passes of the season. Ponder will have to hope his offensive line protects him more effectively than it did last week; he has struggled with the Bears' pressure in the past, and had a 0.2 QBR on the 11 dropbacks when he faced pressure against the Lions.
Looking for Jennings: Ponder targeted Greg Jennings on seven passes last week, but the receiver caught just three after Ponder missed him on a couple of occasions and passed up chances to throw to the Vikings' big offseason addition on several third downs. The Vikings signed Jennings to be a go-to receiver for Ponder, and the two spent plenty of time together in the offseason, but it remains to be seen whether Ponder can consistently hit him on some of the routes where Jennings did his best work in Green Bay -- back-shoulder throws, inside slants and seam routes. Jennings has talked about how Ponder needs to trust himself more and be willing to throw the ball into tight spaces, and many of those routes require Ponder to do just that. Otherwise, the Vikings might have to repurpose Jennings somewhat.
Prediction: While now would be a perfect time for Ponder to break out against the Bears, he's never had much success against them. Look for him to post a passer rating in the 70s as the Bears manage to pick off a pass or two.