Spielman credits Ponder as much as Peterson

Adrian Peterson nearly set the NFL's all-time single-season rushing mark last year, but general manager Rick Spielman said Christian Ponder should receive just as much credit as Peterson for the Vikings' playoff berth.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told NFL.com that quarterback Christian Ponder was just as responsible for the Vikings making the playoffs last year as Adrian Peterson.

Last December, the Vikings won their final four games of the season to lock down a wild card spot and Spielman said that Ponder was instrumental in the Vikings making the postseason for the first time since 2009.

"I give him just as much credit for getting us in the playoffs as Adrian," Spielman told NFL.com's Albert Breer in an interview, adding that big things are expected from Ponder in 2013.

The story was discussed on the NFL Network Tuesday and the Ponder assessment was front and center in that discussion. While the Vikings made QB Matt Cassel, a veteran with five years starting experience, one of their first offseason signings, it was made clear that Cassel isn't coming to Minnesota to compete for the starting job. The intent of him being brought in is to back up Ponder, who will enter training camp as the clear-cut No. 1 quarterback.

Ponder made strides in his first full season as a starter, but there are those who will contend what he did best was spin around after the snap and hand the ball to Peterson, who fell just short of the all-time single-season rushing record despite coming off a catastrophic knee injury and being held back early.

Peterson ended the season with 2,097 yards rushing and a 6.0-yard average per carry. Ponder finished with 2,935 yards passing, 18 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and an 81.2 passer rating. Peterson had 484 more yards rushing than second-place Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins. Ponder's yardage total ranked 25th and his rating 24th among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts last year.

The Vikings went 4-0 down the stretch with one of the youngest teams in the league and will be getting younger again this year with the exit of veterans like Antoine Winfield, Michael Jenkins and Chris Kluwe, as well as the addition of three first-round draft picks. It is the young core of talent, including Ponder, that Spielman sees as the future of the franchise. In the last three years, the Vikings have added seven players that were selected in the top 45 picks of the draft – Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson. It is expected those players will be the foundation by which the future of the franchise rests.

While Spielman has never been shy on his confidence in Ponder, to give him as much credit as Peterson seems like a stretch, even for those who bleed purple and gold. When Ponder managed games and didn't commit turnovers, the Vikings won. When he threw interceptions, the Vikings lost.

There's no questioning that, if the Vikings are going to return to the playoffs, Ponder will need to have a big 2013 season. But it would seem just as obvious that Peterson is the offensive straw that stirs the drink. He has been since he arrived in 2007 and nothing has changed six years later.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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