Notebook: Defenses adjusting to Ponder

The Packers made some predictable adjustments, but the Vikings and Christian Ponder couldn't capitalize. Plus, Christian Ballard's start may be temporary, the Vikings are back to being penalty-prone, and a number of Monday Night Football notes that keep haunting Minnesota.

The Green Bay Packers defense has found plenty of ways to try to confuse opposing quarterbacks, using all kinds of different fronts and coverages, but their greatest success might have been on football's biggest stage Monday night against Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.

Dom Capers' defense blitzed the Vikings nearly 75 percent of time, according to ESPN, and with Ponder tying a franchise rookie record with 34 pass attempts, it played right into the Packers' plan.

"They brought a lot of pressure (Monday night)," Ponder said after the game. "They really didn't do anything different. They did exactly what we thought they were going to do. I have to do a better job at avoiding pressure."

Ponder entered the game with a 59.1 completion percentage, but when Green Bay blitzed Monday he completed only 29.4 percent of his passes, ESPN reported. Interestingly, with the Vikings getting their best blitzing cornerback, Antoine Winfield, back in action for the first time in more than a month, it was the Packers who resorted to applying the pressure via defensive backs, bringing blitzers from the secondary on 48.7 percent of Ponder's dropbacks.

Ponder averaged only 3.1 yards per attempt when the defensive backs came on a blitz, but it wasn't all his fault. The offensive line, running backs and tight ends struggled to adequately account for the extra rushers.

Overall, Ponder completed 16 of 34 passes for 190 yards, one interception and a 52.3 passer rating.

"He did some good things at times. There were some third-down conversions that he was able to make for us, but there were some down moments as well," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "They did some things pressure-wise that got him to move his feet and get off his target at times. But it was a good experience for him to be able to be in an environment, one I think he will grow from. But he had his ups and downs throughout the ballgame."

Quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson predicted last week that there would be some growing pains for Ponder as he gets further immersed in his rookie season.

"This is the NFL and defenses adjust fast," Johnson said. "That is the great part of it, but now teams have got him a little bit on tape. Now they're going to have some things (after) they start figuring out what he's doing. They'll adjust and then he's got to adjust. That's why it's the greatest spot in all of team sports. That's why it's going to be fun to watch how that whole process comes together."

Johnson predicted before the game that other teams may use the Green Bay blueprint if they found it to be successful. Not all teams will be able to have that kind of success blitzing the Vikings rookie, but it will be the next test in his maturation.

"As he continues to perform, I'm sure people will try to bring different looks and try to confuse him if they can," Frazier said. "That's not to say the first time we played Green Bay they didn't try some things. It's just he performed a little bit better. I think he'll learn from this experience as well."

BALLARD GETS FIRST START

The Vikings gave rookie Christian Ballard the first start of his career at defensive tackle, alongside Kevin Williams, but that doesn't mean Ballard will continue to start. Because of the Packers' passing propensity, Minnesota's coaches wanted to get all the pass-rushing firepower they could against Aaron Rodgers, and Ballard provides more of that than Remi Ayodele or Fred Evans.

"We were looking at what Green Bay did offensively, all the multiple wide receiver sets and how they try to structure their offense, (and) we wanted to try to get another pass rusher on the field, as opposed to a run-stopping tackle like Remi is or like Fred in those early-down situations," Frazier said. "When they go multiple wideouts, we want to just be able to get our best four rushers out there. At times it helped us. That was purely a game-plan decision."

PENALTY KILLERS

The Vikings had 10 penalties for 80 yards in Green Bay.

After starting the season with nine, eight and nine penalties in their first three games, respectively, the Vikings had only one game with more than six penalties in their last five games. That game? Against Green Bay at Mall of America Field, when Minnesota had nine penalties for 91 yards.

"We were doing pretty good on penalties and bringing those numbers down over the last four or five weeks and then to have it rear its ugly head in a big ballgame like (Monday) night, it really is disappointing," Frazier said. "But it's something we have to continue to address. We have a big ballgame coming up and it's at home. We have to figure out a way to get it going on a short week."

NOTES

  • The Vikings have lost their last five Monday night games and been outscored 171-74 in those games, three of them coming against NFC North opponents.

  • After converting 56 and 50 percent of their third downs in Ponder's first two starts, the Vikings converted only 5 of 14 in Green Bay. The Packers converted 7 of 13 third downs.

  • Jared Allen was credited with one sack in Green Bay to recapture the NFL lead this season with 13.5.

  • Aaron Rodgers has 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in his past three games against the Vikings.

  • The Vikings were shut out in the first quarter for only the second time this season. The other time? Their 39-10 loss at Chicago.

  • Ryan Longwell hadn't missed a field goal attempt of 50 yards or more since a Dec. 23, 2007 loss to the Washington Redskins until he missed a 52-yarder Monday night. He came up short at Lambeau after making a 47-yard attempt that was nullified because of a false start on Evans. Prior to that miss, Longwell had connected on 10 straight field goals of 50 yards or more.

  • Randall Cobb had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Vikings. The last time the Packers had a punt return for a touchdown? Against the Vikings, of course – a 65-yarder for a touchdown by Will Blackmon in their Nov. 9, 2008 matchup, another Monday night matchup.

  • The Washington Redskins re-signed former Vikings defensive lineman Darrion Scott, and the suspension against Giants defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy, another former Viking, has been lifted.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"The Green Bay Packers defense has found plenty of ways to try to confuse opposing quarterbacks, using all kinds of different fronts and coverages, but their greatest success might have been on football's biggest stage Monday night against Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. Dom Capers' defense blitzed the Vikings nearly 75 percent of time, according to ESPN, and with Ponder tying a franchise rookie record with 34 pass attempts, it played right into the Packers' plan. \"They brought a lot of pressure (Monday night),\" Ponder said after the game. \"They really didn't do anything different. They did exactly what we thought they were going to do. I have to do a better job at avoiding pressure.\" Ponder entered the game with a 59.1 completion percentage, but when Green Bay blitzed Monday he completed only 29.4 percent of his passes, ESPN reported. Interestingly, with the Vikings getting their best blitzing cornerback, Antoine Winfield, back in action for the first time in more than a month, it was the Packers who resorted to applying the pressure via defensive backs, bringing blitzers from the secondary on 48.7 percent of Ponder's dropbacks. Ponder averaged only 3.1 yards per attempt when the defensive backs came on a blitz, but it wasn't all his fault. The offensive line, running backs and tight ends struggled to adequately account for the extra rushers. Overall, Ponder completed 16 of 34 passes for 190 yards, one interception and a 52.3 passer rating. \"He did some good things at times. There were some third-down conversions that he was able to make for us, but there were some down moments as well,\" Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. \"They did some things pressure-wise that got him to move his feet and get off his target at times. But it was a good experience for him to be able to be in an environment, one I think he will grow from. But he had his ups and downs throughout the ballgame.\" Quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson predicted last week that there would be some growing pains for Ponder as he gets further immersed in his rookie season. \"This is the NFL and defenses adjust fast,\" Johnson said. \"That is the great part of it, but now teams have got him a little bit on tape. Now they're going to have some things (after) they start figuring out what he's doing. They'll adjust and then he's got to adjust. That's why it's the greatest spot in all of team sports. That's why it's going to be fun to watch how that whole process comes together.\" Johnson predicted before the game that other teams may use the Green Bay blueprint if they found it to be successful. Not all teams will be able to have that kind of success blitzing the Vikings rookie, but it will be the next test in his maturation. \"As he continues to perform, I'm sure people will try to bring different looks and try to confuse him if they can,\" Frazier said. \"That's not to say the first time we played Green Bay they didn't try some things. It's just he performed a little bit better. I think he'll learn from this experience as well.\" The Vikings gave rookie Christian Ballard the first start of his career at defensive tackle, alongside Kevin Williams, but that doesn't mean Ballard will continue to start. Because of the Packers' passing propensity, Minnesota's coaches wanted to get all the pass-rushing firepower they could against Aaron Rodgers, and Ballard provides more of that than Remi Ayodele or Fred Evans. \"We were looking at what Green Bay did offensively, all the multiple wide receiver sets and how they try to structure their offense, (and) we wanted to try to get another pass rusher on the field, as opposed to a run-stopping tackle like Remi is or like Fred in those early-down situations,\" Frazier said. \"When they go multiple wideouts, we want to just be able to get our best four rushers out there. At times it helped us. That was purely a game-plan decision.\" The Vikings had 10 penalties for 80 yards in Green Bay. After starting the season with nine, eight and nine penalties in their first three games, respectively, the Vikings had only one game with more than six penalties in their last five games. That game? Against Green Bay at Mall of America Field, when Minnesota had nine penalties for 91 yards. \"We were doing pretty good on penalties and bringing those numbers down over the last four or five weeks and then to have it rear its ugly head in a big ballgame like (Monday) night, it really is disappointing,\" Frazier said. \"But it's something we have to continue to address. We have a big ballgame coming up and it's at home. We have to figure out a way to get it going on a short week.\"
  • The Vikings have lost their last five Monday night games and been outscored 171-74 in those games, three of them coming against NFC North opponents.
  • After converting 56 and 50 percent of their third downs in Ponder's first two starts, the Vikings converted only 5 of 14 in Green Bay. The Packers converted 7 of 13 third downs.
  • Jared Allen was credited with one sack in Green Bay to recapture the NFL lead this season with 13.5.
  • Aaron Rodgers has 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in his past three games against the Vikings.
  • The Vikings were shut out in the first quarter for only the second time this season. The other time? Their 39-10 loss at Chicago.
  • Ryan Longwell hadn't missed a field goal attempt of 50 yards or more since a Dec. 23, 2007 loss to the Washington Redskins until he missed a 52-yarder Monday night. He came up short at Lambeau after making a 47-yard attempt that was nullified because of a false start on Evans. Prior to that miss, Longwell had connected on 10 straight field goals of 50 yards or more.
  • Randall Cobb had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Vikings. The last time the Packers had a punt return for a touchdown? Against the Vikings, of course – a 65-yarder for a touchdown by Will Blackmon in their Nov. 9, 2008 matchup, another Monday night matchup.
  • The Washington Redskins re-signed former Vikings defensive lineman Darrion Scott, and the suspension against Giants defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy, another former Viking, has been lifted.
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