“I made some mistakes personally that were crucial, Put this loss on me, but the players around me played exceptionally well and kept me in it,” Ponder said after quarterbacking the Vikings in their 33-27 loss to Aaron Rodgers and the defending Super Bowl champion Packers.
But while Ponder did throw two key interceptions in the third quarter, he began the game with big pass on his first snap and shook off the interceptions to battle to the finish and give the Vikings (1-6) a shot to beat the champs (7-0).
“He never got down on himself. He continued to make plays that needed to be made … which really gives us hope for the future,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who put the first-round draft pick (12th overall) in the lineup to replace struggling vet Donovan McNabb.
Ponder’s first play initially was ruled a 73-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins. Upon review, Jenkins was ruled down as he dove for the end zone. Ponder followed with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
“One-for-one for a TD was exciting, but 2-2 for a TD was good enough,” said Ponder.
The two interceptions in the third quarter both were made by Packers cornerback Charles Woodson. One was at the Minnesota 45; the other at the Vikings’ 35. Both set up field goals, six points that proved pivotal.
Ponder’s stats weren’t impressive (13 completions in 32 attempts for 219 yards, two TDs and two interceptions). His passer rating of 58.2 didn’t compare to Rodgers 146.5.
But Ponder competed. He led a 93-yard touchdown drive that pulled Minnesota within 33-27 midway of the final quarter. The drive end with his 24-yard pass to Jenkins.
“He (Ponder) definitely made some plays. I was impressed,” said Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji.
Tough Woodson intercepted Ponder twice, he said the Vikings helped him by using a lot of rollouts.
“They let him keep plays alive with his feet, and he did a lot of good things for them,” said Woodson.
With 2:30 left and three timeouts, the Vikings punted to the Packers’ 20. The idea was to stop the Packers and get the ball back. But the Packers were able to run out the clock.
“I really believed that we could go out and stop them from running the football,” said Frazier.
Ponders’ starting debut came on a day when Adrian Peterson ran for 175 yards and a touchdown for Minnesota, yet, in the end, it still wasn’t enough for the Vikings to hand their division rival its first loss of the ’11 campaign.