Conventional wisdom demands blitzing a rookie quarterback in his first pro start, but Christian Ponder will have a player in his backfield that might protect him from an all-out assault by the Packers on Sunday.
“It’s easy to say you’ve got a rookie in there, rush him, but you have Adrian Peterson back there, too. We have to pick our spots. Nothing helps a young quarterback more than a good running game,” Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said on Friday, as the Packers moved into the final stages of preparation for Sunday’s game in Minneapolis.
Ponder, the 12th pick of this year’s draft, will replace Donovan McNabb as the Vikings’ starting quarterback, not only for this game but for the remainder of the season, Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. The Ponder era will begin against the Vikings’ No. 1 NFC North rival and the NFL’s only undefeated team.
“Every quarterback has a starting point in their career. We’re going in to stop their offense, and a big part of their offense is their running game,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.
“I see an excellent athlete with really good feet. I’ve seen guys come free and couldn’t get him on the ground. He throws well on the move and you can see his arm strength,” Capers said in providing a scouting report on Ponder.
It’s what Ponder will have behind him, however, that really has the Packers’ attention. Peterson is one of the premier rushers in the game, a combination of power and speed that can take over a game on one of his good days.
“This guy is rare,” Capers said of Peterson. “More than anything else, you have to be gap sound. If there’s a seam, he’ll find it. He’ll get his 4-, 5-yard run, but don’t let him come out of there for 40.”
Capers elected to show his defense tape of the Vikings’ 34-10 win over visiting Arizona. It is the Vikings’ lone win of the season.
“To make a point, we looked at the first half of the Cardinals game. Peterson looked like the best back in the league. In a very short period, it was 24-0,” Capers said.
The point Capers was making is that the Vikings have jumped on teams early this season. Getting out to a lead, especially in the din of the Metrodome, hasn’t been a problem. Protecting the lead has been the issue, as the Vikings squandered big leads against Tampa Bay and Detroit.
“They’ve been a different team playing at home. That’s a fast track. That’s a loud stadium. They have a big advantage. You try to neutralize that advantage as soon as you can,” Capers said.
“They’ve come out strong. That’s something we’re preparing for as a football team. It’s something to be ready for at the beginning of the game. They’ve started fast,” McCarthy said.
The Packers will be taking a banged up defense to Minnesota this weekend. Linebacker Frank Zombo is out with a knee injury, cornerback Sam Shields is doubtful with a concussion, safety Morgan Burnett will again play with a large cast protecting a broken hand, and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett was added to the list on Friday as questionable with a concussion. Pickett would be an especially important player in this game, since he is one of the Packers’ two best run-stuffers.
“He’ll break more tackles than the average running back,” Capers said of Peterson. “He seeks contact. He attacks tacklers. You have to get the second guy up there.
“When our guys watch tape, you don’t have to get their attention. He has their attention.” Additional coverage - Oct. 21