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In a duel between rookie quarterbacks, Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings topped Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers 24-21. Ponder looked sharp in only his second start of the season managing the game, converting on third down, and letting Vikings all pro running back Adrian Peterson shoulder most of the load.
Peterson’s versatility gave the Panthers defense nightmares, he finished with 156 all-purpose yards, scoring two touchdowns: one through the air and getting the other on the ground. The solid play by Peterson grabbed most of the attention from the Panthers defense and allowed Ponder to excel.
Ponder threw for over 230 yards, with one touchdown, no interceptions and stayed poised in the pocket when under duress. That type of quarterback play is what the Vikings have been looking for all year. He is a quarterback that can convert on 3rd and 5, not turn the ball over, and accurately deliver the ball to open receivers, and hand the ball off to tried and true to Peterson to deliver the big plays.
The formula almost didn’t work, as Newton showed why he was the number one pick in the 2011 draft and the leading candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Newton passed for just shy of 300 yards and had three touchdowns. Newtown hooked up with 3 different receivers on each of his touchdowns throws, going to Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, and Jeremy Shockey.
Behind Newton’s great play the Panthers jumped out to a 21-14 lead early in the 3rd quarter, but fizzled out going three-and-out on three consecutive possessions. That Carolina drought allowed the Vikings to put together a run dominated drive featuring Peterson to score a touchdown and later a Ryan Longwell field goal, which proved to be the game winner.
Newton and the Panthers had a chance to come back and put together a memorable game winning drive when they received the ball back with 2:43 left in the 4th. Newton and Panthers drove down the field, even completing a 4th and 15 with a 44 yard bomb from Newton.
Later, a key 3rd down conversion was reversed after Smith was called for offensive holding instead of having first and goal on the Vikings 8; it was 3rd and 7 on the 18 yard line. After not converting the replayed 3rd down, the Panthers still had a chance as they were forced to kick a field goal that would tie the game at 24.
With the game on the line kicker, Olindo Mare missed a 31 yard field goal wide left, dashing any hopes of a Panthers win. Although only one rookie quarterback won on Sunday, the future looks bright for both Ponder and Newton.
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