Nov 7, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) dives for the end zone during the third quarter against the Washington Redskins at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Redskins 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Last year’s game against Seattle was not Christian Ponder’s proudest moment on a football field. The 30-20 Vikings loss featured perhaps the most Ponder of all Ponder throws, when he flat out missed Percy Harvin on an easy screen pass, setting off Percy’s now-infamous sideline temper tantrum. The overall numbers for Ponder that week were…not good. 11-22 for 63 yards and a pick. Utterly brutal performance.
To Ponder’s credit, he is not afraid to admit it when he truly truly stinks it up. The quarterback said Friday of his performance last year against Seattle, “I honestly sucked.” That might be an understatement.
But the wonderful thing about life is that you often get a second chance, and Christian Ponder indeed will get a second chance this weekend against the Seahawks. Despite suffering a separated shoulder in his last game, Ponder is on-track to start for the Vikings Sunday afternoon. He will have to wear a harness on his shoulder but he is expected to go.
Ponder may not be totally healthy going into this game, but he seems confident. And he should be confident coming off the Washington game, where he posted a 113 passer rating while throwing for two TDs.
Of course Seattle’s defense poses a much stiffer challenge than the Redskins’. But Ponder has seen that defense before and he knows what he must do differently in order to succeed.
“There’s a lot to improve on [over last year’s game],” Ponder said. “Missed throws and missed reads and getting out of the pocket early and stuff. It’s a game I watched to prepare for this game — and just an opportunity to play a lot better than I did last year.”
Best of all, Ponder won’t have Percy Harvin out there showing him. Harvin will be on the other side, probably playing a limited number of snaps for Seattle as he comes back from hip surgery.
Ponder would love to stick it to Seattle and Harvin, especially after the ugly way things went down with Harvin last season. Percy clearly did not respect Ponder, and if Christian has any pride at all, he will want to show up Percy and his new team.
Ponder and the Viknigs have a daunting task ahead of them however. Seattle is 9-1 and soaring toward a #1 seed in the NFC. Russell Wilson is one of the league’s top QBs and Marshawn Lynch is one of the league’s top running backs. And Seattle features one of the league’s top defensive units.
If Seattle has a weakness, it’s in their pass protection. They’ve suffered some injuries on the offensive line this year and the Vikings think they can get after Russell Wilson. But even if you get after Russell Wilson, the little scrambling waterbug of a QB can still beat you.
The Vikings’ offense will also have to do its share, and that will mean more than just Adrian Peterson having a good game. Christian Ponder showed against Washington that he can be more than a “game manager” who just takes care of the ball. Ponder proved he can be a playmaker, and the Vikings will need him to be that again if they’re going to walk into Seattle and steal one.
The days of expecting Ponder to just stay out of the way are over. The Vikes need to find a true leader at quarterback, and now is Ponder’s chance to prove he can be that guy. He took great strides last week, but the process isn’t over. Ponder needs to follow up that effort with another strong game.
He needs to put aside the bad memories of last year’s disaster against the Seahawks and just go out and play his game like he did vs. Washington. The time for sucking is long past. Sucky Ponder needs to disappear forever, and Solid Ponder needs to show up every week.