He would fake the handoff to Adrian Peterson, roll right and go through his progressions, looking first to a tight end inside and then downfield to a receiver. It worked seamlessly when he found his second read, receiver Michael Jenkins, wide open down the left sideline. Although Ponder came up short of hitting Jenkins in stride while the quarterback was rolling out and throwing across his body, it turned into a 72-yard gain down to the 1-yard line. The play call took perfect advantage of an aggressive defense with cornerbacks that like to jump routes – Tramon Williams did that when Jenkins ran the "out" part of his out-and-up route – and the logical thinking that the Vikings would play it safe with a rookie quarterback handing off to the best running back in the NFL.
"We talked about it on Wednesday that it was going to be the first play call and we saw a couple times on film where teams ran similar plays to that and they were going to bite on those routes. So I mean it worked out just as we planned," Ponder said.
But it also made sense that the Vikings would also want to be more aggressive with Ponder after trying to urge veteran Donovan McNabb to "let it go" in previous weeks.
"It's essential in today's game (to throw downfield). All offenses are looking for chunks. To get a chunk, a lot of times they're not going to be presented to you on a silver platter. You've got to be willing to pull the trigger before the guy is open, or if there is just a minute area of separation," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "So you're right, (Ponder) has got no conscience, he's got thick skin, which is important to be able to pull the trigger, even when it may not look as clear as we'd want it to look."
In five quarters of play, Ponder has six passes of 20 yards or more. In the previous 23 quarters, Donovan McNabb had 12 passes of 20 yards or more. Ponder's strike to Jenkins is the longest passing play of the Vikings' season.
AVOIDING THE INT
While Ponder had two touchdown passes, he also threw two interceptions to CB Charles Woodson. Ponder said he needs to work on not staring down his receivers as much, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said that wasn't an issue on the two interceptions.
"In those instances he wasn't staring him down and it wouldn't have mattered because it was man coverage," Musgrave said. "Woodson wasn't watching him, he was watching the guy he was covering. But we always have our quarterbacks try to take their eyes away from the intent. Christian, for the most part, has done a good job with it in practice, when he got in the preseason games and the other night."
Musgrave indicated the route and throw could have been a little better. Asked if part of the issue goes to a lack of separation from receivers, he acknowledged that could be a contributing factor.
"A little bit. A little bit was the matchup of Woodson on the tight end, and then Woodson, on his other one, he was matched up on Jenkins and we had a good man-to-man beating route, but we didn't out-execute him in that instance," Musgrave said. "We did on the touchdown post and we did another time on third down when Shank did beat Woodson like a drum for a big third-down conversion."
MAN WITH MANY HATS
Joe Webb has returned kicks (last year), been lined up out at wide receiver and at quarterback. Now that the Vikings have a "Blazer" package installed for Webb to line up at quarterback on occasion, it means he has to two have two helmets at the ready. The first is a typical one worn if he is going to be a receiver when another quarterback is in the game. But if Webb enters the game and the normal quarterback – now Ponder – comes out for a few plays, then Webb has to grab a helmet with a transmitter to hear the play calls from offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
"I have two separate helmets for a couple plays in the Blazer package. If the quarterback comes out of the game and I go into the game, coach tells me to grab a helmet," Webb said. "For other plays, when I'm lined up at receiver or the quarterback lines up at receiver and we're both in at the same time, both quarterbacks can't have a helmet (with a transmitter)."
In those cases, Webb has the helmet without the transmitter.
Punt returner Marcus Sherels has been taking heat for fielding punts inside the 10-yard line. The Vikings' general rule is that he should have his toes on the 8-yard line and most everything that is over his head he should let bounce in hopes of a touchback.
But when Sherels fielded another punt inside the 10-yard line Sunday, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said it was the right move in that instance.
"I don't think he did anything wrong. The one he caught over his head, he knew where he was because I asked him right away and he's a very honest young man. He got towards the sideline and he knew he was going to have a lot of time because the ball was kicked 65 yards and there wasn't a lot of hangtime," Priefer said. "It was a great punt; it wasn't great hangtime. He felt if he could make that first guy miss, which he did, we could be able to get up the sideline. He got out past the 20-yard line, I believe the 22-yard line. So that wasn't a mistake."
Priefer said Sherels thought the ball was going to go out of bounds around the 5-yard line.
HARVIN STILL A RETURN OPTION
Despite sore ribs have that have been bothering Percy Harvin since training camp, he is still an option on kick returns.
"I think if he's feeling good, we're going to use him," Priefer said. "… If he's available, I'm going to use him as much as I can."
Harvin said Friday he would play and return kicks.
Head coach Leslie Frazier talks to Harvin before the game to see how the ribs are feeling and then lets Priefer know if Harvin is a return option. Priefer admitted that "Percy does not want to say no; he wants to take every single one of them."
But even if Harvin is feeling fine, the Vikings shy away from using him if he's going to be used extensively on offense that upcoming series or if they are going to be in a hurry-up mode on offense with him in the game.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.