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.
Tags: Christian Ponder
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