The Green Bay Packers look to remain perfect against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football in Week 10, but must shut down Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder in order to do so. This may seem a simple task containing a rookie quarterback making his third start, but Ponder has played quite well, and the Packers secondary has struggled at times.
In his two starts, Ponder has completed 31 of his 60 passes for 455 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, leading the Vikings to a win and a loss over the span. The Vikings lost to the Packers in Week 7 and then beat the Carolina Panthers in Week 8 before getting their bye week.
While the stats haven't been great for Ponder through his two starts, he has made some big time throws that have kept the Vikings competitive. In his first NFL start, Ponder played well enough to allow the Vikings to hang around with the Packers in a game that ultimately ended with the Packers' smallest margin of victory in the 33-27 Week 7 matchup.
In that game, the Vikings played the Packers very well with a huge start on offense, out-scoring the Packers in the first-half, 17-13. While the Vikings failed to keep up with the Packers in the third quarter as Green Bay let off 20 straight, they fought hard in the fourth quarter to pull within six before James Starks ran out the clock on the Vikings.
Since Ponder was named the starting quarterback replacing Donovan McNabb, the Vikings have rallied around the rookie and played better football. After battling with the Packers for 60 minutes, the Vikings traveled to Carolina to beat the Panthers, 24-21.
Admittedly struggling, the Packers secondary has had a hard time stopping any quarterback from picking up yardage. Giving up just under 300 yards per contest, there should be plenty of opportunities for Ponder to make big plays.
Fortunately, despite giving up yardage by the hundreds, the Packers defense has come up big in many adverse situations, getting stops when absolutely necessary. Whether a turnover or a fourth quarter stop, the Packers defense has been forced to rely on big plays to close out games.
Another reason that the Packers can't take Ponder lightly is the star running back who lines up behind him. Adrian Peterson, arguably one of the best backs in the league, is a huge luxury for any quarterback and can successfully take pressure off of Ponder.
In the Packers' Week 7 win against the Vikings, Peterson ran all over the Packers for a season-high 175 yards on just 24 carries and a touchdown. With Peterson putting the Vikings in favorable downs and distances, Ponder is not asked to do too much, but not limited in his freedom.
The Vikings should look to ride Peterson much of the game and let their franchise player do as much damage possible. If Peterson is able to run wild on the frozen tundra, the Packers will be forced to bring defenders into the box and dare Ponder to beat them.
Ponder may not be quite to the level of knocking off the Packers, but this is not a quarterback the Packers can take lightly. They must commit to stopping the run and getting to Ponder early and often. A big lead early on would force the Vikings to throw the ball as they play catch-up.
Following the communication issues in San Diego, this is a game that the Packers secondary must take pride in and look to dominate the young quarterback. If they take Ponder seriously, prepare well and improve communication, there is no reason to think the Packers will have trouble in this game. This game presents the possibility for a huge turnaround on the defensive side of the ball.
With much of the nation watching, the Packers secondary that has been much talked about over the last week will get an opportunity to showcase what kind of defense they really have.