Wednesday, September 18, 2013
QB Watch: Vikings' Christian Ponder
By Ben Goessling
A weekly analysis of the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback play:
Rewind: Christian Ponder rebounded from an ugly first half in Chicago last week, going 10-for-16 for 146 yards after throwing an interception that Tim Jennings returned for a touchdown in the first half. Coach Leslie Frazier said he never thought about benching Ponder after the quarterback went 6-for-14 in the first half, and Ponder rewarded the coach's continued patience, directing three scoring drives and making a number of plays with his feet. Ponder looked more self-assured in the second half, though it didn't hurt that the Vikings' offensive line finally gave him time to throw after struggling for the first game-and-a-half of the season.
Fast-forward: Ponder has never faced the Cleveland Browns, but this weekend might present him an opportunity to build some consistency on offense. The Browns have been stout against the run, allowing just 119 yards in two games, so if the Vikings struggle to get Adrian Peterson going -- something hard to believe -- Ponder could get more opportunities against a pass defense that gave up an average of 285.5 yards per game in its first two losses. He also should benefit from playing at home, where he posted a 64.3 QBR last season (compared to 39.8 on the road).
Looking for consistency: Ponder's had a knack for turning in his best play when criticism of him is at its highest, and what he did on Sunday was no different. That, of course, begs the question: Why isn't Ponder able to be more consistent? "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 this week. Still, it would help Ponder's case going forward if he's able to build on what he did last week and turn in some complete performances during a three-game stretch -- against the Browns, Steelers and Panthers -- that should be one of the softest on the Vikings' schedule.
Prediction: Ponder will be at home, having created some optimism in the second half last week, and he could benefit from Frazier's calls to get rookie Cordarrelle Patterson more involved in the passing game. Look for him to throw about 230 to 240 yards and a couple of touchdowns as the Vikings get their first win.