49ers Struggle, Fall Against Vikings in Shocker as Ponder Picks Apart Niners D

Baily Deeter@@deetersportsSenior Writer IIISeptember 23, 2012

Christian Ponder dives into the end zone for a touchdown.
Christian Ponder dives into the end zone for a touchdown.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

When the San Francisco 49ers beat the Packers and Lions to open the season, everyone penciled them in as a lock to beat the Vikings. But, somehow, they didn't.

Christian Ponder and the Vikings dominated the 49ers in every aspect of the game, ending San Francisco's undefeated season and seizing a tie of first place in the NFC North. Adrian Peterson struggled, as he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. But Ponder didn't, as he threw for two touchdowns and ran for another one in Minnesota's 24-13 win.

Kyle Rudolph caught two touchdowns and made some great snags, while Percy Harvin caught nine passes for 89 yards. Minnesota dominated on third down and they dominated everything else. Matt Kalil and the Vikings' offensive line shut down Aldon and Justin Smith, allowing Ponder to find his receivers downfield.

Ponder kept plays alive by throwing the ball well, and he was very accurate. Against San Francisco's tough defense, he made great throws and continued to find open receivers. Minnesota's receivers did a great job getting open on busted plays, and the Vikings offense frustrated the 49ers by chewing up huge chunks of time and punching the ball in the end zone.

San Francisco was focused on stopping Peterson, and they did just that. However, Ponder, with the game in his hands, delivered. He only completed 21 passes, but all of them mattered. He also picked up 38 yards on the ground, and he made a great read on the one play in which he ran for a touchdown. Ponder saw that the middle was cleared, since Patrick Willis had dropped back in coverage. So, he sprinted down the middle.

Dashon Goldson grabbed him, but Ponder made it into the end zone for a 20-yard score. That gave the Vikings a 14-3 lead, and a few nice passes later set up a 52-yard field goal from Blair Walsh. Minnesota led 17-3 at halftime, but the 49ers rallied in the third. They had all the momentum after Alex Smith hit Vernon Davis for a touchdown, but their defense let up again.

Ponder and the Vikings chewed up more than seven minutes with a touchdown drive, and Frank Gore fumbled on the next play from scrimmage. The Vikings failed to cash in, but their defense stepped up. Smith couldn't complete passes, and Minnesota's underrated secondary made some great plays. They forced Smith to fit the ball into tight windows, and he couldn't do that.

Smith was intercepted late in the fourth quarter, when he overthrew Michael Crabtree and Josh Robinson picked off the pass. It snapped Smith's streak of 249 passing attempts without an interception, and it wrapped up the win for Minnesota. The Vikings and 49ers now have the same record, thanks to Minnesota's dominance and San Francisco's letdown.

The 49ers had opportunities, but they couldn't convert. As a result, they are now in danger of losing their NFC West lead, while the Vikings are surprisingly tied for first place in the NFC North.

San Francisco plays at the Jets next week, while the Vikings travel to Detroit to take on the Lions.

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.