Notebook: Inaccuracy plagued Ponder most

A review of Christian Ponder’s 22 incompletions shows that most of them didn’t give his targets much of a chance. Coincidentally, we compiled 22 additional notes to help tell the tale of the Vikings’ blowout loss.

Any time a team trails by 42 points in a game, blame must be shared. But 11 days after being the inactive third quarterback against the New Orleans Saints, Christian Ponder’s role in Thursday’s 42-10 loss can’t be underestimated.

Ponder completed 22 of the 44 passes he threw, but it wasn’t the 22 completions that were the problem. It was the 22 incompletions. In this case it was even more glaring because all but five were passes that couldn’t be caught.

In the first quarter, Ponder threw a pass too high for Cordarrelle Patterson to catch. He also had a bomb to Jarius Wright, who had inside position and a step on the defender, but the pass sailed incomplete over the outside shoulder. He also had Jerick McKinnon open in the flat for a potential big gainer if he could beat his man, but the pass sailed high. His last pass of the quarter he went deep for Wright, who again had position, but the pass fell off his fingertips as Wright dove for a pass thrown a couple yards too far.

In the second quarter, Ponder threw interceptions on consecutive passes – one that was returned 49 yards for a touchdown by Julius Peppers and another that set the Packers up in the red zone for another touchdown that turned a 14-0 deficit into a 28-0 chasm. His last pass of the half sailed high over the head of Rhett Ellison.

In the third quarter, his first pass was a coverage throwaway. His next two incompletions were a wild sideline pass toward Adam Thielen that couldn’t have been caught and a pass thrown behind a crossing Greg Jennings that he couldn’t adjust to in time. Ponder’s last pass of the quarter was a touchdown attempt to Wright, who once again had his man beat, but the pass was caught four yards beyond the end line.

In the fourth quarter, Ponder’s first pass had the potential to be another touchdown, but was thrown too wide for Charles Johnson to get his feet down. His next attempt at a bomb was also to Johnson, but overthrown by 5 yards. As the clock hit the two-minute warning, Ponder threw a pass for Matt Asiata that was way too high to catch. He closed out the game by throwing two passes that the Packers had a better chance of intercepting than Ponder’s teammates had of catching.

It wasn’t all Ponder’s fault. He was under pressure all night, because, like Tarvaris Jackson often did before him, he wouldn’t consistently make a defense pay for bringing pressure. Of his 22 incompletions, a strong case can be made that if blame were to be assigned, 17 of them were Ponder’s fault, not the fault of his receivers.

“I’ll take the heat. Two turnovers, missing throws and I’ve got to do a better job in the pocket moving around and hitting guys,” Ponder said. “I’ll take the blame.”

To put the blame completely on Ponder would be disservice to him. But, in a game where he had the opportunity to make his case to not only the Vikings, but to 31 other teams that may be looking for a veteran to come in and compete for a job next year, Ponder laid an egg in the worst way possible – he overthrew receivers, he threw behind receivers, he potentially had two touchdown passes but threw them to a point where they couldn’t be caught in bounds.

Fans who groaned when they heard the news that Teddy Bridgewater had been deactivated Thursday afternoon had all of their worst fears confirmed Thursday night. The Packers knew that if they pressured Ponder, he would likely fold. His offensive line did him no favors, but the Green Bay blueprint was correct and, if Bridgewater can stay healthy the rest of the season, Vikings fans may have seen the last of Ponder.

“I don’t know when it’s going to happen next,” Ponder said of his next opportunity. “That's what stinks about not playing well (on Thursday night).”


  • Perhaps the most telling statistic of the game was who caught passes for the Vikings. Adam Thielen, Chase Ford, Jarius Wright, MarQueis Gray, Joe Banyard and Charles Johnson combined to account for 14 of the Vikings’ 22 receptions, while Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings combined for four catches for 39 yards.

  • Eddie Lacy hadn’t rushed for 50 yards all season. He had 53 yards Thursday on his first three carries and finished the game with 105 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries.

  • Jordy Nelson came into the game leading the NFL in receptions and receiving yards. He caught just one pass, but it was a 66-yard touchdown.

  • The Vikings had 10 different players catch passes, which may be why the final 25 minutes of the game had the feel of a preseason game.

  • Harrison Smith recorded his third interception of the season, which currently ties him for the NFL lead.

  • The Vikings’ starting position for drives were abysmal – starting from their own 14, 21, 13, 11, 20, 12, 20, 20, 9 and 17-yard line in their first 10 drives of the game.

  • In their first four games, the Packers defense had just six sacks. They had six against Ponder Thursday.

  • The Vikings actually ran 23 more offensive plays (75) than the Packers (52).

  • Both defenses entered play Thursday allowing their opponents to convert 50 percent of third downs or worse. The Vikings limited Green Bay to 4 of 11 third-down conversions (36 percent), while the Packers allowed Minnesota to convert just 5 of 15 opportunities (33 percent).

  • Patterson suffered a hip injury that he said was minor. He was replaced by Marcus Sherels, who had 46-yard kick return.

  • Aaron Rodgers only had to throw 17 passes in the game. At halftime, he had nine completions – three of them for touchdowns.

  • With 3:38 to play in the third quarter, Jennings, returning to Lambeau Field for just the second time as an opponent, caught his first pass. On that reception, it allowed the Vikings to take an offensive snap on Green Bay’s side of the field for the first time.

  • In the first half, the Vikings defense solidified to do its part to keep the team in the game. Rodgers and the Packers had six three-and-out drives in the first half.

  • In the first half, Patterson and Jennings combined for one catch for 2 yards.

  • Time of possession is often a telling statistic, but not Thursday. In the first half, the Vikings held a significant time-of-possession edge – holding the ball for 17:32 of the first 30 minutes, yet trailed 28-0.

  • The final drive of the game for the Vikings was a 16-play drive that died on downs. Through the first three quarters, Minnesota’s plays per drive were 3, 6, 3, 5, 3, 6, 2, 6, 4, 3 and 5.

  • There were 17 drives in the first half of the game. There are entire games that don’t have 17 drives.

  • Of the eight drives Green Bay had in the first half, none of them was more than four plays.

  • The game got out of hand in the second quarter because the Vikings had three turnovers in a span of 4:55 on the game clock.

  • Rodgers’ final touchdown was the 200th of his career. He accomplished that feat in 99 games.

  • Of the first 11 drives in the game, none of them took more than three minutes off the clock.

  • NBC and CBS must really be happy for “Must See TV” Thursday night. NBC had the season opener between the Packers and Seahawks and it was a 20-point blowout. CBS took over and Baltimore beat Pittsburgh by 20. The following week, Atlanta led 56-0 before finishing with a 56-14 win. Last week, the Giants went on the road and beat Washington by 31 points. The Vikings lost by 32. Fans keep waiting for a good Thursday game. They haven’t got one yet.

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