Ponder Gets Better As Pressure Increases

USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Christian Ponder was, rightly, much maligned for a good portion of this season. The second-year signal caller from Florida State had a stretch of games where his passing numbers were fairly abysmal. From Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals to Week 13 against the Green Bay Packers, Ponder was a wreck, including two games where he failed to pass for more than 75 yards and throwing more interceptions than touchdown passes during that time.

After bottoming out by throwing two awful interceptions in a 23-14 loss at Lambeau Field, Ponder and the Vikings sat at 6-6. With the NFL's toughest schedule over the final four weeks looming large, it was determined that the Vikings. . .while mathematically alive. . .could start making tee times at their favorite golf courses for the first week in January.

But then, a funny thing happened. While Adrian Peterson continued going berzerk against opposing defenses and Minnesota's defense continued to step up their game, Christian Ponder got better. How much better? ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert puts it into perspective.

But after a disastrous Week 13 performance against the Packers, Ponder quietly turned himself around and had the NFL's second-best QBR (86.8) over the final four games of the season, trailing only Peyton Manning. Over the second half of the season, Ponder's QBR on third down -- measuring not only passes but also his scrambles -- was the league's second best.

Yes, it may be entirely possible that Christian Ponder has. . .gasp. . .gotten better over these past four weeks. Sure, his numbers in Week 14 against the Chicago Bears weren't great, even though they resulted in a Vikings' victory, but he has gotten progressively better. (And, yes, the uptick in his play does just happen to coincide with his marriage to Samantha Steele. I don't know if that actually has a real connection to his level of play or not. If you think it does. . .well, try to keep it clean, folks.) Ponder hasn't thrown an interception in his last 14 quarters of play, and over his last three games has completed 60% of this throws. Given what he has to work with in the passing game, that's actually pretty darn good.

I understand that having Adrian Peterson lining up behind you helps. Everybody knows that. You know what else has helped? Bill Musgrave finally, apparently, coming to the understanding that Christian Ponder isn't exactly winging the ball to Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and Jake Reed downfield. The passing game is still predicated on short passes, which is the way it should be with the way this team is currently constructed.

But Ponder has started taking better care of the football over these past few weeks, and when he does that and doesn't turn the ball over, the Vikings have success. If he can continue playing "clean" in the post-season, perhaps the Vikings. . .who are, already, being written off by most of the intelligentsia out there. . .can continue shocking the world the way they have all season.

Can they do it? Well, you can find out yourself. . .in person. . .with Minnesota Vikings tickets for this weekend's match-up at Lambeau Field. Get them at the link there, if you're interested.

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