Faster tempo, better results. That was the formula for the Vikings’ offense against the Jaguars on Sunday. No Viking player benefited more from the faster pace than quarterback Christian Ponder, who after a slow start was able to kick it into gear and lead the Vikes to victory. Ponder credits the hurry-up approach, and the aggressiveness it engendered, for his career-best performance. He hopes to play that way again on Sunday against Indianapolis.
“It’s just an attitude,” Ponder told the media on Wednesday. “I think mentally just telling myself that I’ve got to go out and play aggressively and play almost mad. I just go out there and play with that sense of urgency and I think that starts with the tempo that you call the play and you break the huddle immediately and you get everyone to get up there and run the play. I think you can control a lot of that in the huddle.”
The Vikes actually tried pushing the tempo early but with less-than-stellar results. The low point came when Ponder misread a Jacksonville defensive shift and threw it straight into a safety who luckily failed to complete the interception. As Ponder himself explained, “We had a dummy cadence and I was keying the backside safety, and he looked like he was staying Cover-2 during the dummy cadence. After the snap of the ball, they rotated to single-high, and I just made a bad assumption that they were staying in Cover-2 and immediately looked at the linebackers to make my read.
“My lesson learned is always keep the eyes on the safeties, because those are the guys that tell the truth and everybody else lies. I’ve got to do a better job of that.”
Those early frustrations were what fueled Ponder’s later effectiveness, he says. ”After those first couple drives, I was mad that I missed a couple throws and just kind of said, ‘I’m going to go out here and throw this ball and make plays.’ It was almost like playing mad.”
Mad Dog Ponder? Whatever works.