The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 3, 2012

Look beyond the numbers for Ponder's improvement

MANKATO — Week 4’s NFL game between the Vikings and Lions is in the books, and while Minnesota won, quarterback Christian Ponder’s numbers were quite pedestrian. He threw for just 111 total yards and no touchdowns.

It you took out the Vikings’ two returns for scores it was a game the team very easily could have lost. But you can’t throw out the two returns, and that’s the reason no one should be panicking about Ponder.

Basically he did what he had to do to win the game. When his team got a comfortable lead, he made sure not to take any foolish chances.

A big thing I think a lot of fans overlook when discussing Ponder is that his defense is playing a lot better this year. Instead of having to throw passes he might not want to because he’s playing from behind, Ponder has had the luxury of playing from ahead most of the time.

It’s true that after four games Ponder ranks 25th in the league in passing yards (824) and definitely needs to get better in that area, but there are other areas where he is significantly improved over what fans saw from him last season.

He is managing the game noticeably better and is making a lot fewer mistakes. He has yet to throw an interception — a marked improvement over what he was doing a year ago.

A lot of fans thought Sunday might be the day Ponder unleashes the Vikings’ vertical attack but, even with the return of Jerome Simpson to the lineup, it did not happen. He did complete one 27-yard pass to Simpson, but otherwise it was more of the same shorter, controlled passes the offense has displayed throughout the first month.

There’s really no sense in trying to force a long ball to Simpson just for the sake of throwing long. It’s likely that will come naturally as the offense and Ponder continue to grow.

Now, having said all that, can the Vikings realistically expect to win three of every four games if their quarterback is throwing for only a little more than 100 yards on Sunday? Definitely not.

But the fact that Ponder has the eighth-best quarterback rating in the league (97.7) is encouraging. The second-year player still has a way to go, but he’s already shown growth from Year 1 to Year 2.

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at jrueda@mankatofreepress.com

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