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The Packers, who were then and still are undefeated, came at him with everything they had and gave him a sample of what elite NFL football tastes like. Despite forcing him into throwing two interceptions (and potentially more that were dropped by Packers defenders), Ponder managed to keep the Vikings in the game. Although they ended up falling short by a score of 27-33, it was an impressive NFL debut by a quarterback that many thought the Vikings overdrafted at No. 12 overall.
His numbers might not have been Newton-esque, but his poise and unrelenting drive to give his team every possible opportunity to win the game were remarkable for a rookie. Ponder took responsibility for his mistakes, but didn’t dwell on them and went out with confidence on the next drive as if the previous one never happened. He showed an unwillingness to lay down when the Vikings fell behind by a couple touchdowns and didn’t stop until the final whistle blew.
"He's been so unflappable in the two starts he's had that I have a feeling whatever we tell him, he's still going to be able to handle the situation,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said.
Now, with a 1-1 record as an NFL starter under his belt, Ponder will face off against the Packers again after a bye week that should have the Vikings well rested and ready to play. Although the Green Bay secondary will again pose a daunting challenge to the young gunslinger, he’s ready to prove that he’s matured since their previous meeting.
“That’s what their defense is, bend but don’t break,” Ponder said. “They’ve given up some yards but not a lot of scoring. My two mistakes last game – you’ve got to be careful with the ball but capitalize with the opportunities we’re given.”
Although there’s nothing wrong with a little confident, too much can be a bad thing, especially for a rookie NFL quarterback. A big part of Ponder’s struggles last game stemmed from his overconfidence and lack of discipline when making throws into coverage. If he can cut down on this bad decisions and pick and choose his targets with more care, the Vikings could stand a chance at winning Monday’s game.
If Ponder can start his career as the Vikings starter with a 2-1 record, including a win against the Green Bay Packers, the team might have discovered its new franchise quarterback. The Vikings haven’t had an upper-level passer since Daunte Culpepper in the mid-2000s, so a new quarterback who can lead them to victory consistently is long overdue. For now, Ponder is just enjoying the opportunities he’s getting.
“Growing up as a kid you’re always watching Monday Night Football,” Ponder said. “It’s always a dream to get out and play. You hear nothing but good things about playing at Lambeau Field and how awesome an experience it’s going to be.”
Enjoy the mystique of it while you can, Christian. When it’s Monday night and you have the entire Packers defense and a sea of green and yellow bearing down on you, it’ll be more like a nightmare than a dream.
All we can do for now is hope that you come out of there unscathed with a victory in hand.