Ponder struggles again, offense falters in loss
OCT 26, 2012 1:38a ET
Ponder said he needed to look at the film. He knows he, and the rest of the offense needs to improve. But for three weeks now, it’s been the same tune for the second-year quarterback.
He says he feels comfortable in the pocket, but is often scrambling to his left or right early on passing plays. He avoided, for the most part, the turnovers that had plagued him the past three weeks. Ponder threw one interception in Thursday’s 36-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it came with just over a minute left in the game with the outcome no longer in doubt.
Yet, the growth Ponder showed through the season’s first month, seems distant as the Vikings have lost two of their past three games.
"I think I definitely have to play better," Ponder said. "I don’t think I’m playing as well as I should, or can. Defenses are always going to be scheming against us. We have to make adjustments, and we will make adjustments. Coach (Bill) Musgrave comes up with a great game plan. We just have to play better.
"It comes down to me. I have to play better. I think that’s obvious to everyone."
Four days after completing just 8 of 17 passes for 58 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in Sunday’s win against the Arizona Cardinals, Ponder finished Thursday 19 of 35 for 251 yards, a touchdown to Percy Harvin and the one interception. Much of the yardage came late in the fourth quarter though, after Tampa Bay had already led 36-17.
On the final two drives, down 19 points, Ponder was 9 of 13 for 117 yards. Previously he was 10 of 22 for 134 yards. Even with running back Adrian Peterson having another strong rushing performance, the Vikings’ passing offense couldn’t sustain drives.
"Our passing game has to improve," coach Leslie Frazier said. "It’s hard to just continue to pound it. There are games where you’re going to need to throw it. We did a good job of running the ball on occasion, but there are times you need to complete some balls down the field. We tried on a number of difference occasions and we didn’t connect. We need to connect at times."
Harvin had seven catches for 90 yards. Michael Jenkins had four catches for 78 yards.
Jerome Simpson had two catches for 37 yards, including a big 33-yard catch, leaping over a defender. But Simpson also had a well-thrown ball slip through his fingertips and fumbled after one catch.
Cook suffers a broken wrist: Cornerback Chris Cook broke his wrist on the third play of the second half, leaving the field a play before Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin scored on a screen pass for a 64-yard touchdown.
Frazier wasn’t sure how much time Cook would need to miss as the wrist heals.
"I would imagine with a broken wrist," Frazier said when asked if it would be a significant amount of time. "Sometimes you can cast it, but I don’t know enough yet."
Peterson breaks more marks: The one offensive bright spot again was the running of Peterson. Peterson ran 15 times for 123 yards on Thursday, including a 64-yard touchdown run that helped Minnesota temporarily get back into the game.
The run was Peterson’s longest of the year. He had said he felt we was getting close to breaking off a long run after a season-best performance on Sunday and he did so Thursday, taking a handoff off right tackle, and beating the defense down the right side thanks to a big block by Simpson.
"I’m all in it until that time runs out; 100 yards, over 100 yards means nothing if you don’t get a victory," Peterson said. "So, that’s what I’m all about."
Peterson set a new team record with his 30th 100-yard rushing performance. He also tied Robert Smith for the team records of 50-plus (12) and 60-plus (seven) yard runs. Peterson’s 64-yard run tied the fifth longest of his career.
He also moved into third place all-time for most combined yards from scrimmage in team history with 8,975.
Peterson did have a costly lost fumble, which turned into a Buccaneers touchdown, when he was stripped by veteran Ronde Barber.
"I just remember the safety coming up and spinning off him, and as I was spinning Barber stuck his hand in there and got the ball out," Peterson said. "We preach about protecting the ball, so I will make sure that doesn’t happen again."
It was Peterson’s first loss fumble since Dec. 28, 2010.
Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
+ SHOW COMMENTS +