Ponder In Command On Early Downs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 24, 2012 – 9:10 pm

It’s been well-publicized that Vikings QB Christian Ponder set a goal during the offseason of completing 75% of his passes on 1st and 2nd down this season in order to avoid the dreaded 3rd-and-long scenario as much as possible. We’ve followed Ponder’s 1st and 2nd down passing numbers through the first two games of the regular season, and the results have been very good.

Through the first two games, Ponder was 32 of 40 (80%) for 339 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs (110.3 passer rating). Those are terrific numbers for Ponder, but it resulted in a mediocre 3rd-down conversion rate of 36% (9 of 25) and average 3rd down to-go distances of 6.4 yards in Week 1 and 6.7 yards in Week 2.

This past Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Ponder’s numbers were less gaudy on 1st and 2nd down, but the end result was a marked improvement in a couple different ways. Ponder was 14 of 24 for 139 yards with no TDs or INTs, which equates to a modest 74.8 passer rating. But the Vikings converted 7 of 14 attempts on 3rd down (50%) and the average to-go distance on 3rd down was just 5.4 yards, a full yard better than in Week 1 and 1.3 yards better than in Week 2.

It’s a lot of data to crunch and compare, but suffice it to say that Ponder’s choice to set ambitious goals for 1st and 2nd down passing is paying dividends. Ponder is completing 71.8% (46 of 64) of his passes on 1st and 2nd downs for 478 yards, and he’s protected the ball well with 0 INTs and 1 TD toss. Those numbers yield a passer rating of 98.3, but more importantly it’s allowed the Vikings to convert 41% (16 of 39) of the 3rd downs, which represents a 2.6-point improvement from a season ago.

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Greenway Shines For Vikings Defense Again

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 24, 2012 – 6:29 am

Chad Greenway has been one of the Vikings most consistent players since he was selected in the 1st round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He’s played in all 80 games since coming back from a knee injury that ended his rookie season before it began, and he’s been the Vikings leading tackler in each of the past  four seasons.

Through three games this year, though, Greenway has been more than a consistent performer. He’s been the Vikings best defensive player. And it was no more evident than in Sunday’s win over the San Francisco 49ers. Greenway led the team with 13 tackles and with 2.0 sacks. Greenway made several impressive open-field tackles to save big yardage and 1st downs. Both of his sacks came in the 1st quarter, the first on a 3rd-and-6 play in which Greenway closed incredibly fast and gave Smith no time to react, and the second sack came later in the 1st quarter during a drive that eventually ended with a miss FG.

“It was great by Chad,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “His leadership on the sideline, on the field making the big plays, that’s what we need from him. It was just great to see him step up along with other guys.”

Greenway had a career-high 174 tackles last season along the way to his first trip to the Pro Bowl. So far this season, Greenway has been credited with 37 tackles, which puts him on pace for another career high this season – 197 tackles. And Greenway is neutralizing perhaps the only criticism one could levy against him – a lack of “splash” plays. Greenway now has the 2.0 sacks as well as 3 passes defensed.

When asked about his performance after the game in the locker room, Greenway deflected the attention toward the team in general.

“When you can get a team that is coming off two big wins, beating teams in our division, you feel good about what you are doing,” Greenway said. “We really wanted to win at home, first and foremost and hold court here, consider that accomplished. They are a great football team. They are going to win a lot of football games.

“We feel like if we can replicate what we did here today every week and be consistent we have a chance to do something.”

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Vikings MVP? Harvin Just Might Be

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 24, 2012 – 12:26 am

Percy Harvin has yet to score a TD during the 2012 season. But make no mistake, Harvin has been one of the Vikings most valuable players to this point. He put together another solid outing on Sunday and helped the Vikings upend the heavily-favored San Francisco 49ers by a count of 24-13.

In the game, Harvin caught 9 of the 11 passes thrown his way and collected 89 receiving yards. For the season, Harvin has caught 27 of the 32 passes thrown his way for 277 yards. Six of Harvin’s 10 offensive touches on Sunday resulted in 1st downs, and one of the touches that didn’t was a quick 5-yard gain at the end of the 1st half that set up Blair Walsh for a 52-yard FG.

On top of his offensive production, Harvin also registered 3 kickoff returns for 74 yards and 1 rush for 9 yards against San Francisco. Add it all up, and you get 12 touches that generated 172 yards against a 49ers defense that ranks as one of the fiercest in the NFL.

For the season, Harvin has 43 touches and 559 combined yards, which amounts to 13.0 yards per touch. Also, Harvin’s 319 total offensive yards amount to 30% of the Vikings total offensive output on the season, and Harvin has generated 17 first downs for the Vikings offense.

Harvin’s value to the Vikings offense is not lost on its triggerman – QB Christian Ponder.

“It’s huge,” Ponder responded when asked about having Harvin as a weapon. “Again, when you can throw a short, little bubble route or a swing to him and he gets 15 or 20 yards on it pretty much every time, I mean it’s something that you can just rely on, and that’s a big part of this offense and also in the running game. When you start seeing San Francisco start doubling him, you’re taking away a defender on the run game when they’re worried about Percy Harvin. And he’s such a big part of this offense, and we’re going to keep giving him the ball and he’s going to keep making plays for the rest of the season.”

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