The numbers for Christian Ponder once again aren't going to overwhelm, but with an opportunistic defense and crazy running game, he is doing enough to win. Plus, more than a dozen notes that tell the tale of the Vikings' 36-22 win over the Rams.
For the fifth time this season, Adrian Peterson
had more yards rushing than Christian Ponder
had passing – including each of the last three games – but Ponder's efficiency was important on the road.
Ponder said last week that he's fine with a "game manager" label if the Vikings are winning. Over the last two weeks, that's what Ponder has been and that's what the Vikings have been doing.
On Sunday in St. Louis, Ponder had an efficient game, completing 17 of 24 passes for 131 yards and a passer rating of 83.9.
"I think we had two turnovers; we didn't turn the ball over," said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who has been stressing the importance of winning the turnover battle the last two weeks. "Just a lot of good things."
Ponder was consistent all day. After the first quarter, his passer rating was 104. 2 and remained steady throughout – 81.5 at halftime, 84.6 after three quarters and 83.9 when his day was over.
He completed 70.8 percent of his passes (the fifth time this year he has completed better than 70 percent) and he didn't have an interception – just the second time in the last 10 games that he hasn't thrown an interception.
GAME DAY NOTES
Kicker Blair Walsh set a franchise record with three field goals of 50 yards or more, connecting from 50, 51 and 52 yards with room to spare on all three of them. Walsh finished the day with 18 points and tied the all-time NFL record of eight field goals of 50 or more yards in a season with two games remaining to set the all-time mark.
It wasn't all good news for the Vikings. Defensive end Brian Robison suffered a right shoulder injury midway through the first quarter and it was clear the injury was serious. He was taken immediately to the locker room and, when he came back to the Vikings sideline, he was out of uniform and had his right arm in a sling. The injury was diagnosed as an AC sprain. Robison will get a magnetic resonance imaging test tonight or tomorrow to assess the extent of the damage.
The Rams had allowed just two 100-yard rushers this season, the last being Stevan Ridley in late October.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle was the career milestone set by Steven Jackson of the Rams. In the final minutes of the third quarter, Jackson broke off a 9-yard run that put him over the 10,000-yard rushing mark for his career. Jackson had a big day in the losing effort, rushing 13 times for 73 yards and catching eight passes for 73 more yards.
The numbers didn't tell the entire story because, once the built their big lead at 33-7 in the third quarter, they went into a shell while the Rams were throwing constantly. The Rams held a huge advantage in total yards (432-322) and ran 77 offensive plays, as opposed to just 59 for the Vikings. As a result, Bradford put up good numbers for fantasy football owners (completing 35 of 55 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns), but much of his yardage came at "garbage time" when the Vikings were allowing the Rams to complete short timing passes over the middle to keep the clock running.
Jerome Simpson led the Vikings with four receptions for 27 yards. While not impressive numbers, it was the first time since his first game as a Viking that he caught four passes in a game and it was also the first time he has led the team in receptions.
There was an official John Carlson sighting Sunday. In the first 13 games of the season (11 of which he played), Carlson had caught just five passes for 26 yards. On Sunday, he almost doubled those totals, catching three passes for 17 yards.
The Vikings came into the game as one of the league's worst defenses on third down, allowing opponents to convert on 44 percent of their chances. On Sunday, despite allowing 29 first downs, the Vikings allowed the Rams to convert just three of 13 third-down opportunities (23 percent). Heading into the fourth quarter, the Rams had converted just one third down.
After having a couple of uncharacteristic weeks without a touchback, Walsh had six touchbacks Sunday and had a seventh that was returned from seven yards deep in the end zone.
The Vikings had just three penalties Sunday and didn't have their first penalty called until A.J. Jefferson was called for pass interference with 1:47 to play in the third quarter.
The Vikings scored on five of their first six possessions Sunday and six of their first eight. The Rams scored on just one of their first eight possessions.
Chad Greenway, who has been at or near the top of the tackles list all season, had another big day, recording 14 tackles (13 solo) to lead the Vikings defense.
The Music City Miracle failed miserably for the Rams late in the game. On a Vikings punt, St. Louis tried a little trickery, but a backwards pass from Danny Amendola to Janoris Jenkins almost led to a turnover inside the St. Louis 10-yard line when Jenkins was hit by Andrew Sendejo and fumbled. While the Vikings had a chance to recover the kick, the Rams came out of the pile with the ball.
Things were pretty rough for an usher on the field Sunday. When Amendola scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, he did a powerful spike that hopped directly into the face of the elderly man, who had his glasses shattered by the ball. He was taken off the field by medical personnel, but was given the touchdown ball as some form of penance for the crime.
The Vikings sacked Bradford four times Sunday, extending the longest current streak of consecutive games with a quarterback being sacked. Bradford has been sacked at least once in his last 30 starts.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.