Lost in all the excitement over the Minnesota Vikings' thrilling overtime victory Sunday and the triumphant return of RB Adrian Peterson, was a clutch performance by QB Christian Ponder that is worth recognizing.
Ponder started slow in the first half against the Jaguars until a scoring drive right before half time jump-started the offense and appeared to set the course for the rest of the game.
He was 4 of 4 on the drive that led to a Peterson touchdown and the Vikings first points of the game. Ponder finished 20 of 27 for 270 yards and a 105.5 passer rating. But his performance on that final drive of regulation, which included two completions in the final 20 seconds to set up the game-tying field goal, was where he really stood out.
“I told our team that we need to be ready for the two minute offense," Ponder said. "We need to stay in the game and be prepared mentally. We did and we executed.”
That display of leadership was something coach Leslie Frazier said Ponder might not have accomplished last season.
“I don't think there is one [time]more evident than that two-minute situation that we had,” said Frazier when asked about Ponder's growth. “There were a number of moments like that a season ago where we needed just one play that could have turned the game in our favor in the fourth quarter and we couldn't find a way to make that play."
"The poise that was needed in that sequence and the leadership that was needed, that's good stuff," Frazier said. "He did something we hadn't seen very much of recently, so it was good for us.”
So, yes, Vikings fans, Peterson scored the touchdowns and Blair Walsh booted two crucial field goals, but Ponder recovered from a bad first half to lead those scoring drives, showing a mental toughness that's important for the development of a young team, and the final box score.
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