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Frazier: Ponder's recent performance no cause for panic

The SportsXchange

Playing a game four days after the previous one has to feel good for a quarterback who performed as poorly as Christian Ponder did in the Vikings' 21-14 win over the Cardinals at Mall of America Field on Sunday.

Thursday's kickoff against the visiting Buccaneers gives the second-year quarterback three fewer days to dwell on his eight completions (one in the second half), 58 yards passing, two interceptions and 35.5 passer rating. It also will give his increasingly restless critics three fewer days to skewer him via every outlet possible.

Neither the Vikings' 5-2 record, nor the fact they rode Adrian Peterson and a dominant pass defense to victory seems to matter as much as Ponder's second straight sub-par performance and the fact that he's now turned the ball over seven times in the past 11 quarters.

At least one person isn't panicking: Coach Leslie Frazier, who sounds confident talking about Ponder's ability to bounce back against the Bucs' 31st-ranked pass defense (323.0 yards allowed per game).

"He's so different from a year ago when it comes to negative plays," Frazier said. "I've seen it and we've all seen it over these first seven games where he's had some bad plays and he's bounced back. Sunday was a tough day against a very, very good defense. But he's not the same Christian Ponder that he was a year ago. I'm convinced of that."

Three of Ponder's turnovers the past two weeks have come inside his own 20-yard line and led to 21 points. More than his puny yardage numbers on Sunday, that is the problem. The way the Vikings are constructed, Ponder's No. 1 priority is avoiding turnovers, particularly the closer he is to his own goal line.

"There are going to be some tough days for him," Frazier said. "He'll get better."

Ponder, naturally, agrees.

"I'm trying to do too many things," he said. "I'm getting out of the pocket and trying to force it to happen. I have to be a lot smarter and make better decisions for sure."

Ponder is being ripped for completing only one pass for 4 yards as the Vikings mustered just two first downs in the second half. Yes, he didn't play well in the half, but the Vikings' approach changed dramatically once rookie safety Harrison Smith made it a 14-point ballgame (21-7) by returning an interception for a touchdown on the Cardinals' opening possession of the second half.

At that point, whether Frazier will admit it or not, the Vikings threw their trust behind their defense, not their young quarterback.

From that point until the end of the game, Ponder threw only seven passes. That followed a pattern of other games in which the Vikings build second-half leads.

Against the 49ers, Ponder threw 12 second-half passes, completing six for 55 yards and a touchdown. He threw 11 against Detroit, completing six for 52 yards. And against Tennessee, he threw 14, completing 12 for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

Anyone who considers Ponder's 353-yard performance in a loss at Washington good are more wrapped up in Fantasy Football than reality. Ponder threw for 212 of those yards and both touchdowns after his pick-six put the Vikings down 19 points early in the fourth quarter.
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