Ponder reverts to old form with turnovers


Ponder reverts to old form with turnovers

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Christian Ponder's decision-making, accuracy and ability to avoid the big mistake were three of the biggest keys to Minnesota's surprising 4-1 start to the season.

Along the way he even got away with a few shaky throws, thanks to a butter-fingered defensive back or a well-timed flag thrown by a replacement referee.

Both his magic and his luck ran out against the Washington Redskins on Sunday, and now the young Vikings quarterback has to regroup after two straight weeks of turnover-filled performances.

Ponder went the first four games without an interception, but has thrown four in the past two outings.

The Redskins returned one for a touchdown on Sunday, and he also fumbled a ball deep in Minnesota territory that led to another score in the Vikings' 38-26 loss in Washington.

``It's disappointing, for sure,'' Ponder said after the game. ``You never want to have those situations, but you just have to forget about it.''

One thing Vikings coaches are urging fans to remember is that Ponder is only in his second season, and first full one as the starter. They know that there are going to be days like that one as part of Ponder's learning curve. They just hope that they get fewer and farther between as the season goes on.

``No doubt about it, he's in his second season,'' coach Leslie Frazier said on Monday. ``There' going to be some growing pains along the way. We know that. This is a part of the process with him, part of the evolution of being an NFL starter. And we grow as a team, he'll grow. But things like what happened yesterday could happen as he continues to gain more experience.''

Ponder completed 35 of 52 passes for 352 yards, two TDs, two interceptions and a fumble lost to the Redskins, a return to the error-prone performances he put up as a rookie.

His fumble set up a Redskins touchdown on the very next play and a poorly thrown ball in the fourth quarter was intercepted to thwart any chance of another late-game comeback.

The defeat wasn't all on his shoulders, of course. The Redskins put plenty of pressure on Ponder and had their safeties crowd the line of scrimmage to concentrate on stopping Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin while virtually ignoring the possibility of getting beat deep.

With speedster Jerome Simpson out with a back ailment, the Vikings were missing the field stretcher to keep defenses honest. Harvin is dynamic but does most of his damage underneath while Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu have had difficulty gaining separation down the field.

``We have some things in place,'' Frazier said. ``Now it's a matter of can we hit some of those big plays down the field? But as people continue to creep toward the line of scrimmage, you definitely want to be able to take some shots down the field.''

Simpson has been dealing with a back issue that causes numbness in his leg for about a week now. He said on Monday that he was surprised to be deactivated against the Redskins and that he expects to be on the field when the Vikings host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

``Me being a competitor I always want to play the game, play in the game, so I just have to go with his decision and what he thinks is best for the team,'' said Simpson, who missed the first three games because of a suspension.

Frazier said Simpson will be monitored in practice throughout the week before a decision is made.

``He's a competitor, which is what you appreciate about him,'' Frazier said. ``He wanted to be out there. But we'll see how it goes this week. He's a competitor. He wants to play. He wants to help our team win and we'll evaluate it this week.''

The last time the Vikings lost, they gathered themselves and reeled off three straight victories. They expect to rebound just as nicely after their second defeat and have faith that Ponder will start to turn things around as well.

``They did some things up front that we kind of practiced the opposite,'' Harvin said. ``They switched up a few things on us. So it clouded what he was seeing a little bit. At the same time, we all take responsibility. We just want to play a clean game.''


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Ravens' Justin Tucker had the perfect reaction to his Pro Bowl snub

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Ravens' Justin Tucker had the perfect reaction to his Pro Bowl snub

The NFL announced Pro Bowl rosters for the 2018 season Tuesday night, and to the surprise of many Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was voted a first alternate for the second year in a row.

Named the backup to New York Jets kicker Jason Myers, not only were fans surprised but Tucker himself had the perfect reaction to the snub.

That GIF is from his shocking Week 7 missed field goal attempt against the New Orleans Saints, but so far in 2018 the most accurate kicker in NFL history has made 28 of 30 field goal attempts (93.33) and 33 of 34 extra point attempts (97.06). He was also named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September and November.

In comparison, Myers has made the most field goals in the NFL this season at 31, and his 93.9 success rate is ever so slightly higher than Tucker's. He's also made more from longer so far this season.

Tucker did earn Pro Bowl nominations back in 2013 and 2016. He owns an NFL-record seven-career games with multiple 50-plus-yard field goals and became the only kicker in league history to kick field goals from the 20-, 30-, 40-, 50- and 60-yard ranges in a single game. Week 12 against the Oakland Raiders, Tucker became the fastest pure kicker in NFL history to reach 900 career points in his 107th career game. The only overall player to hit this milestone faster was Gino Cappalletti in 106 games. 

Three Ravens did make this year's roster. Guard Marshal Yanda earned his seventh nomination after missing 14 games during the 2017 season with a fractured ankle. Safety Eric Weddle was named to his sixth Pro Bowl and his third straight with the Ravens, and linebacker C.J. Mosley earned his fourth nomination in five seasons. 

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was named a second alternate. 

The Pro Bowl takes place Sunday, Jan. 27 in Orlando, Fl. 


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Penguins at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Penguins at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Capitals take their five-game winning streak into Wednesday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With 43 points, the Caps currently have a four-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitian Division. This season, the Caps are 1-0-1 against the Pens. Winning their last game, 2-1, back on Nov. 8.

Alex Ovechkin enters riding a career-high 14 game point streak. Ovi has also scored a goal in six straight games. He currently leads the NHL with 29 goals on the season.

Pittsburgh, who lost to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, are tied for third in the Metropolitian Division with 36 points.

Here is everything you need to know about Wednesday's game.

Penguins at Capitals How to Watch

What: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals, Game 33 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C. 
When: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals host the Sabres on the new MyTeams by NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM 

Penguins at Capitals TV Schedule

7:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)
7:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)
8:00 PM: Penguins at Caps (NBC Sports Network)
10:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)
11:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)

Penguins at Capitals Injury Report

Capitals: Defenseman Christian Djoos (thigh) OUT

Penguins: RW Patric Hornqvist (upper body) OUT

Penguins at Capitals Players to Watch

Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals (29G, 14A): Named the NHL's first star of the week, Ovi continues to roll. He has scored seven goals over the last three games. His career-best scoring streak is at 14 games.

Nicklas Backstrom, C, Capitals (10G, 30A): Like Ovechkin, Backstrom has been on a roll over the last three games. He has six assists over that stretch included four assists against the Detroit.

Evgeni Malkin, C, Penguins (11G, 25A): Malkin snapped a six-game goalless streak with a first period tally against the Ducks on Monday. 

Penguins at Capitals Series History

Number of all-time Meetings: 291 (68 postseason)
All-Time Series Record: Penguins lead 149-126-16
Regular Season Record: Penguins lead 109-98-16
Playoff Record: Penguins lead 40-28
Last Meeting: Caps win 2-1 (Nov. 7, 2018)
Last 10: Caps lead 6-4