Posted November 12, 2012 on AP on Fox
Signs of Christian Ponder's confidence made a welcomed return for the Minnesota Vikings, in the pocket during a win and at the podium for his postgame interview. The keys to success for the second-year quarterback are minimizing sacks and turnovers and spreading around the ball to a variety of receivers. If Ponder is cracking self-deprecating jokes and firing off other one-liners -- like quick, sharp passes under pressure -- at his news conference afterward, that's usually further evidence that Ponder helped fuel a Vikings win. ''I want to thank my girlfriend, because she obviously has such a big impact on how I play,'' Ponder said after Minnesota beat Detroit 34-24 to move to 6-4 entering its bye week. He's in a relationship with ESPN college sports reporter Samantha Steele, a romantic link revealed about a month ago. Since Ponder's performance crash over the previous three games started around the time his dating life was publicized, some frustrated fans blamed him for being distracted. The truth is their connection was struck before the season, though, and Ponder was overwhelmed by the Arizona, Tampa Bay and Seattle defenses. So Ponder badly needed a win Sunday as much as anyone else on the Vikings. Several veterans praised his play unprompted, well aware of the mounting doubts about the 2011 first-round draft pick from Florida State's ability to be the long-term solution at the sport's most important position. ''Ponder had a good day,'' linebacker Chad Greenway said after redirecting a question about Adrian Peterson, whose 171 yards rushing helped take the load off his teammate. ''You really don't want to lose focus of that. He made some really nice conversions on third down and threw some tough balls, so I'm proud of the way he stepped up after some tough weeks.'' Tough weeks remain. The Vikings return Nov. 25 at NFC North-leading Chicago then go to Green Bay on Dec. 2. Both of those teams come to Minnesota in the last month, too, and they visit AFC-leading Houston on Dec. 23. For now, the Vikings can enjoy the 20th start of Ponder's career a little longer. He completed 24 of 32 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, took one sack and didn't turn the ball over. He was 7 for 7 on third downs during scoring drives, too, including a 54-yard completion to Jarius Wright that set up a touchdown and a third-and-6 throw to tight end Kyle Rudolph that went for a score. ''That's the No. 7 that we knew we had in our locker room and we've seen since we started in April,'' Rudolph said, referring to Ponder's jersey number. ''Christian just came out and let his talent take over. He just came out and threw it.'' The absence of do-it-all wide receiver Percy Harvin due to a sprained left ankle removed Ponder's favorite target. So he looked for Rudolph often. He hit Devin Aromashodu for a 31-yard gain on a slant pattern to set up a third-quarter field goal. He delivered the ball to Wright in stride on third-and-10 during Minnesota's first drive, the kind of defense-stretching long pass there's been a dearth of by the Vikings this year. ''The way he practiced throughout the week, particularly on Friday, he was really on fire,'' coach Leslie Frazier said, acknowledging the importance of a deep completion for Ponder early in the game to settle in. Peterson said he saw ''a blessing in disguise'' for Ponder from Harvin's injury. ''Christian kind of forced into giving it to him sometimes. So with him being out, other guys stepped up. He was able to get back there and just go through his reads and progressions and find the guys that were open,'' Peterson said. Nine Vikings caught passes. ''Ten,'' Ponder said, making sure to include himself, for the 15-yard loss he took on the batted ball by Lions defensive end Cliff Avril that landed in his arms well behind the line of scrimmage. The Vikings spent extra time last week refining their passing game, be it the protection schemes on the line, the routes run by their receivers or the plays called by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. The most important change, though, fell on Ponder, to survey the field for his second or third options in situations when the first guy is covered. ''No matter who writes what, it's not going to be as disappointing to read as what I say to myself,'' Ponder said. ''It doesn't bother me, because it comes with the territory. The criticism is justified with the play on the field. I know I can play better, and today was OK. There's still a ton of room to keep improving.'' --- Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Minnesota Vikings QB Christian Ponder thanks ESPN’s Samantha Steel for win over Lions

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder thanked girlfriend and ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Steel for helping his team beat the Detroit Lions, 34-24. Here’s his tweet following the game:

Evaluating Ponder must be Vikings No. 1 goal

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Christian Ponder arrived at the Metrodome for the Minnesota Vikings' game Sunday against the Detroit Lions in the kind of slump that would perplex even the most veteran quarterbacks. Ponder, though, isn't a veteran -- far from it. He was making his 20th NFL start and likely was prepared for criticism from home fans if he got off to another sluggish start...

Vikings GM offers full support to Ponder

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Christian Ponder showed Sunday in helping the Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions why it's necessary to stick by the second-year starting quarterback. Ponder, who had struggled for most of the previous five games, completed 24 of 32 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with nine different receivers and not committing a turnover. Sunday...

Christian Ponder thanks girlfriend Samantha Steele for win over Lions

Christian Ponder played about as well any Minnesota Vikings fan could ask for on Sunday against the Lions.  Ponder completed 24 for 32 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns.It’s his off the field activities that have been in the news. Ponder’s relationship with ESPN’s Sam Steele has been well documented. The two have been reportedly dating the entire season. However, after...

Christian Ponder thanks Samantha Steele after win over Lions

If Samantha Steele is one of the reasons the Minnesota Vikings lost two straight games prior to their win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, she must have had a hand in the victory as well. Since Christian Ponder admitted that he and Steele are dating, he has had to deal with questions about whether or not their relationship has been one of the reasons his play has slipped. On Sunday...

Christian Ponder Fires 2 TDs vs. Lions

Playing without top receiver Percy Harvin, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder still put together his finest effort in weeks, throwing for 221 yards and two scores Sunday against the Lions.Fantasy Spin:Ponder hit rookie Jarius Wright, active for the first time this season, and tight end Kyle Rudolph for touchdowns. The sophomore QB came in having thrown for less than 100 yards in...

Win keeps Vikings in playoff picture

MINNEAPOLIS There will be no lingering frustration heading into the bye week for the Minnesota Vikings after Sunday's 34-24 win. Minnesota knew the importance of beating the Detroit Lions on Sunday. The Vikings wanted to end their two-game slide and be able to head into the off week with positive feelings. They wanted to put Detroit (4-5) squarely behind them. And after last...

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: Hero and Zero of the Game

In a pivotal NFC North game, the Minnesota Vikings were able to overcome the powerful offense of the Detroit Lions, going on to win 34-24.  The Vikings snapped their two game losing streak and were able to improve their record to 6-4 as they swept the Lions this year.Although the Vikings as a team played well, Christian Ponder finally had his rebound game, going 24-32 passing for...

Wright brings playmaking ability to offense

MINNEAPOLIS Quarterback Christian Ponder was struggling and the Minnesota Vikings were going into Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions without league leading receiver Percy Harvin. Enter little-known fourth-round draft pick Jarius Wright. Previously compared to Harvin because of their similar stature and speed, Wright stepped in and helped fill Harvin's role, providing...

Vikings rebound with win over Lions

MINNEAPOLIS -- There was certainly enough pressure to go around. The Minnesota Vikings defense, so stout early, had become leaky. Quarterback Christian Ponder had failed to throw for 100 yards in two of his last three starts. The Vikings, after a 4-1 start, had lost three out of four games, including two straight, and were about to take to Mall of America Field without injured...

Plenty of questions arise after the Lions’ 34-24 loss to the Vikings

Queue up the cynic’s… Same Old’ Lions. Well, we have all waited to find out what the 2012 Detroit Lions are and the verdict is in… The Lions are BAD, 4-5 bad at this point in the season. To have 34 points put up on them with a Christian Ponder quarterbacked team and without one of the league’s most dangerous weapons in Percy Harvin puts up a giant red flag. Oh yeah, the...

Vikings 34, Lions 24

MINNEAPOLIS -- For one week, the Minnesota Vikings offense got healthy and the Detroit Lions' drive back to relevance was stopped. In a 34-24 win at Mall of America Field, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder silenced the boos and running back Adrian Peterson continued to hear the cheers as Minnesota (6-3) broke a two-game losing streak. Despite some determined second-half...
NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.