Christian Ponder has breathed new hope into the Vikings offense by executing well on third downs and in the fourth quarter, two key situations when it matters most.
On the surface, it's just one win over a bad team.
But the Vikings did more than improve their record to 2-6. They elevated their outlook for the future as they head into this week's bye.
In his first NFL road start and second NFL start overall, rookie Christian Ponder
has transformed the attitude of the team, not to mention its ability to finally convert third downs and prevent defenses from stacking the line of scrimmage to stuff All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson
"I'm excited about the way Christian has taken over the leadership role of our team, and really not just with our offense but asking guys to kind of follow him," coach Leslie Frazier said. "It just gives you a lot of hope for the future of our team."
Veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb
is holding steady in his belief that he still deserves to be the starting quarterback. But look no further than key third downs for evidence that Ponder is the quarterback who deserves to be starting.
In the five fourth quarters that McNabb played, he completed 4 of 12 passes with two conversions. In the three fourth quarters that Ponder has played, he has completed 10 of 14 passes with eight conversions. He's also run for a first down on third-and-7.
McNabb converted one fourth-quarter third down of third-and-6 or longer. Ponder has converted eight fourth-quarter third downs of third-and-6 or longer.
So, essentially, it's no contest as to which quarterback should be starting.
RB Adrian Peterson had a career-high 76 yards receiving on five catches on Sunday. With the Panthers showing the Vikings a rare two-high safety look, rookie QB Christian Ponder took the underneath routes to Peterson.
RB Toby Gerhart was averaging 1.7 carries per game, but got five carries in Sunday's win at Carolina. He had four carries for 27 yards in a second-half touchdown drive that also saw Peterson get four carries for 34 yards and a touchdown.
TE Kyle Rudolph, the team's second-round pick and best friend of first-round pick Christian Ponder, caught his first two passes from Ponder in Sunday's win. They went for 15 yards, including a long of 13. The two of them are working to regain the nice rhythm they had in training camp.
LB Chad Greenway had a game-high 13 tackles against the Panthers. He's an active player with enough speed and instincts to close quickly. He showed that when he stopped quarterback Cam Newton for a 5-yard gain on third-and-7 with less than 30 seconds left in the game. That forced the Panthers to try a 31-yard field goal, which Olindo Mare missed.
FS Husain Abdullah notched his first sack of the season on a nice blitz. But he also gave up a 39-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen. Abdullah came up to jam Olsen at the line of scrimmage. But he missed the jam and never recovered.
DE Jared Allen extended his team record for consecutive games with a sack to 10. He has a league-high 12.5 through eight games and is on pace for 25 sacks. The NFL record is 22.5 by Michael Strahan in 2001. Strahan had 14 sacks through eight games that season.