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Ponder gets another chance in Vikings vs. Packers

By the Sports Xchange

Green Bay cornerback Davon House gives credit to receiver Greg Jennings for his development in the NFL.

“I always knew I can play, especially since my rookie year (2011) on the (scout team) trying to cover Greg and Jordy (Nelson) and (other receivers). I said, ‘Well, I can do this,’“ House said Wednesday.

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While House is looking forward to possibly matching up on occasion with his former Green Bay teammate who’s now catching passes for the Minnesota Vikings, the one player who has the Packers’ emerging corner stoked for the teams’ matchup Sunday night is Christian Ponder.

The reeling Vikings (1-5) appear ready to give the reins of their offense back to Ponder for the game at the Metrodome in the wake of a concussion sustained by Josh Freeman in Minnesota’s loss at the New York Giants on Monday.

Ponder’s early-season struggles that prompted his demotion notwithstanding, House took the news of potentially another quarterback change with the Vikings well for another reason.

“The (TV) commentator said during the game the last time we played them at home that (Ponder) said, ‘We’re going to go at House all day.’ That’s what I remember,” House said. “That’s what the commentator said that he said. So, I’ll keep that in the back of my mind.

“I’ve been looking to play against him, so it should be fun.”

The game House referenced is the Packers’ 23-14 win over the Vikings at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2 last season.

Ponder was as woeful in that game — 12-of-25 passing for 119 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions (both by safety Morgan Burnett) for a 41.9 passer rating — as he was the first three outings this season before Minnesota first turned to Matt Cassel and then to Freeman.

If Ponder indeed makes the start Sunday, the Packers (4-2) like their chances of extending their winning streak to four games and maintaining their newfound first-place standing in the NFC North.

Never mind what Jennings had to say as he tried to dodge a flurry of questions from Wisconsin reporters in a conference call Wednesday regarding his critical comments about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the offseason — “I was just messing with him with that (talk),” Jennings asserted.

“We have an opportunity to do something special and unique coming out of this hole, and Christian may be our guy to help us to do that, and Josh may be our guy (or) Cassel may be our guy. We’ll see,” Jennings said.

Ponder did atone for his poor outing at Green Bay last year by throwing for three touchdowns to help the Vikings get past the Packers 37-34 in the 2012 regular-season finale at the Metrodome. That set up a postseason rematch between the teams less than a week later at Lambeau, when Ponder didn’t play because of an arm injury.

For the Packers, though, the focus is squarely on driving their division rival further into oblivion this season by finally getting their hands around and pulling Adrian Peterson to the turf.

Minnesota’s electrifying running back ran through and over Green Bay’s defense for 210 and 199 yards in the regular-season meetings last season, then 99 yards in the Packers’ 24-10 win over the Vikings in the wild-card round of the playoffs in January.

“I felt the first game (at Lambeau), he kind of got away from us,” head coach Mike McCarthy said in retrospect. “The second game up there, I think we kind of over-pursued some. We’ve got different levels in our gap control, and he hurt us. He has that ability to really hurt you both inside and outside, and when you’re not right, he can accelerate the crease and also has the breakaway speed to finish the run.

“We’ve got to play square, our gap control has got to be intact, and we’ve got to be aggressive.”

The impetus for Green Bay’s revitalized defense, which ranks No. 3 in the league against the run despite not having standout linebacker Clay Matthews the last three games because of a broken thumb, is to make sure the football stays in Ponder’s hands and not Peterson’s on Sunday.

Since running for a season-high 140 yards in 23 carries in the Vikings’ lone win — 34-27 over Pittsburgh overseas in London in Week 4 before Minnesota had its bye week — Peterson has rushing attempts of only 10 (for 62 yards) and 13 (for 28 yards) the last two games.

“I don’t think they’ll be throwing it 53 times on Sunday,” said McCarthy, referring to Freeman’s ridiculous total pass attempts (with only 20 completions) in the Vikings’ 23-7 loss at the New York Giants on Monday night. “We have a pretty good understanding of what they want to do, and how they’re going to do it is really why you play the game. Their offense starts with Adrian Peterson, and I think that’ll be evident come Sunday.”