Yotter: Ponder a man of Steele on the field

Christian Ponder played poised, productive football with his running mate, Adrian Peterson, bottled up. Maybe that marriage thing wasn't such a bad idea after all, as he ended bad stretches and has put together some streaks he hasn't seen in a while.

Christian Ponder never looked as uncomfortable behind a press-conference podium as he did Wednesday when fielding questions about the timing and location of his courthouse wedding last Monday.

Six days later, he never looked so comfortable in the pocket. From Hudson (Wisconsin) to Houston (Texas), the married life is treating Ponder well.

"I think not being single has been a plus for him," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.

Ponder's performance Sunday against the Houston Texans is exactly the type of complementary offensive player the Vikings were hoping they had when the selected him 12th overall in the 2011 draft. With a defense determined to plug up Peterson, Ponder was efficient enough for the Vikings to go on the road and beat a playoff team with a 12-2 record and make it look second-nature.

Ponder completed 16 of 30 passes for 174 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and an 81.8 rating. It was the first time since September (before the public knew he and then-girlfriend Samantha Steele were an item) that he has had back-to-back games without an interception.

"Coach Frazier says I should get married every other day. I don't know if my wife would like that," Ponder deadpanned after the game, showing he was back to being comfortable behind the podium.

While he is no longer playing the field, he is playing better on the field, which should significantly cut down on the criticism he received for getting married with two games left in the regular season and the playoffs on the line. Of course, crossing the state boundary into Wisconsin in order to try to conceal the wedding didn't sit well with Minnesota's sports-impassioned critically elite.

It was only fitting, then, that his privacy was betrayed by a Wisconsin governmental agency. Fittingly, he will have the opportunity to stick it to Packer-bleeding Wisconsinites next Sunday while the Vikings try to ensure themselves a playoff position with a win at Mall of America Field.

In order for that to happen, it may be the Peterson-Ponder marriage that has to work nearly flawlessly. Against the Texans, Peterson was bottled up for 86 yards on 25 carries, but Houston's focus on one native Texan, Peterson, allowed another, Ponder, to make plays.

"For Adrian to continue to pound it in there and come up with some tough yards when we needed them, it really helped set up some things in our passing game," Frazier said. "Christian had a terrific day throughout. He played with a lot of poise, a lot of control. He did a lot of the things that we needed, but it was all set up off our run game."

Sunday also marked the first time since early October that Ponder has had consecutive games with a passer rating better than 80.

"He gets too much of the blame when things don't go right. He deserves a lot credit for the success that we had today, particularly on offense," Frazier said. "He did what an NFL quarterback needs to do the way we're structured."

But, ironically, because of the way that the Texans approached defending Peterson, it opened up a few running lanes for Ponder. Houston made the expected decision to load up the line of scrimmage with defenders and play largely man-to-man on Minnesota's receivers.

That allowed Ponder to spread the ball around – he targeted eight different receivers – but it also meant many of those defenders had their backs to Ponder when he broke free from the pocket. He tied a season high with seven rushes for a season-high 48 yards.

That included a key third-down run of 29 yards on the Vikings' final touchdown drive that gave them a 23-6 lead and the final points of the game.

"I ran like 100 yards to get 29 yards. I was cutting across the field just waiting for someone to clean my clock. Fortunately, it was a big third down and we were able to convert on that," Ponder said. "I knew at the end one of their safeties was there and I wasn't going to be able to beat him. I was tired and I slid and said OK and gave up."

Ponder has one more regular-season game in a four-month window that has seen him experiencing the highs and lows of an NFL quarterback. He started the season as the last starting quarterback to throw an interception this season and had the Vikings riding high with a 4-1 record.

Some wanted to believe a seven-game stretch that saw only one game with a rating above 80 could be blamed on him being distracted by love. His performance Sunday wasn't flawless, but it was pretty darn good, sans one fumble that the Texans recovered and Ponder called "dumb."

But if he can play this well or better with Peterson behind him and a stingy, improving defense, the private life won't be an issue, whether it should be or not.

"Football is very important to me. Whatever goes on in my personal life, I'm 100 percent focused on football," Ponder said. "It takes an hour of my day to go get married; I'm not losing any time in the film room."


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



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Christian Ponder never looked as uncomfortable behind a press-conference podium as he did Wednesday when fielding questions about the timing and location of his courthouse wedding last Monday. Six days later, he never looked so comfortable in the pocket. From Hudson (Wisconsin) to Houston (Texas), the married life is treating Ponder well. \"I think not being single has been a plus for him,\" Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. Ponder's performance Sunday against the Houston Texans is exactly the type of complementary offensive player the Vikings were hoping they had when the selected him 12th overall in the 2011 draft. With a defense determined to plug up Peterson, Ponder was efficient enough for the Vikings to go on the road and beat a playoff team with a 12-2 record and make it look second-nature. Ponder completed 16 of 30 passes for 174 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and an 81.8 rating. It was the first time since September (before the public knew he and then-girlfriend Samantha Steele were an item) that he has had back-to-back games without an interception. \"Coach Frazier says I should get married every other day. I don't know if my wife would like that,\" Ponder deadpanned after the game, showing he was back to being comfortable behind the podium. While he is no longer playing the field, he is playing better on the field, which should significantly cut down on the criticism he received for getting married with two games left in the regular season and the playoffs on the line. Of course, crossing the state boundary into Wisconsin in order to try to conceal the wedding didn't sit well with Minnesota's sports-impassioned critically elite. It was only fitting, then, that his privacy was betrayed by a Wisconsin governmental agency. Fittingly, he will have the opportunity to stick it to Packer-bleeding Wisconsinites next Sunday while the Vikings try to ensure themselves a playoff position with a win at Mall of America Field. In order for that to happen, it may be the Peterson-Ponder marriage that has to work nearly flawlessly. Against the Texans, Peterson was bottled up for 86 yards on 25 carries, but Houston's focus on one native Texan, Peterson, allowed another, Ponder, to make plays. \"For Adrian to continue to pound it in there and come up with some tough yards when we needed them, it really helped set up some things in our passing game,\" Frazier said. \"Christian had a terrific day throughout. He played with a lot of poise, a lot of control. He did a lot of the things that we needed, but it was all set up off our run game.\" Sunday also marked the first time since early October that Ponder has had consecutive games with a passer rating better than 80. \"He gets too much of the blame when things don't go right. He deserves a lot credit for the success that we had today, particularly on offense,\" Frazier said. \"He did what an NFL quarterback needs to do the way we're structured.\" But, ironically, because of the way that the Texans approached defending Peterson, it opened up a few running lanes for Ponder. Houston made the expected decision to load up the line of scrimmage with defenders and play largely man-to-man on Minnesota's receivers. That allowed Ponder to spread the ball around – he targeted eight different receivers – but it also meant many of those defenders had their backs to Ponder when he broke free from the pocket. He tied a season high with seven rushes for a season-high 48 yards. That included a key third-down run of 29 yards on the Vikings' final touchdown drive that gave them a 23-6 lead and the final points of the game. \"I ran like 100 yards to get 29 yards. I was cutting across the field just waiting for someone to clean my clock. Fortunately, it was a big third down and we were able to convert on that,\" Ponder said. \"I knew at the end one of their safeties was there and I wasn't going to be able to beat him. I was tired and I slid and said OK and gave up.\" Ponder has one more regular-season game in a four-month window that has seen him experiencing the highs and lows of an NFL quarterback. He started the season as the last starting quarterback to throw an interception this season and had the Vikings riding high with a 4-1 record. Some wanted to believe a seven-game stretch that saw only one game with a rating above 80 could be blamed on him being distracted by love. 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