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Ponder rally helped Vikes into playoffs

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 07:59 AM
RENTON, Wash. -

The most glaringly bad performance by Christian Ponder in a season marked by costly mistakes and curious decisions had just concluded, and the skepticism about his viability as Minnesota's quarterback was as prevalent as ever.

After the former Florida State star threw two devastating interceptions in the third quarter at Green Bay that day, one in the end zone with Minnesota leading 14-10 and the other at the Packers 13-yard line with the Vikings trailing 20-14, the playoffs appeared improbable. They were 6-6 and facing a difficult four-game segment at the end of the schedule. Ponder's future as the starter looked tenuous.

So coach Leslie Frazier, anticipating the swirl of speculation and criticism from analysts and fans, sought out Ponder in the locker room at Lambeau Field to assure him the team was still behind him. Running back Adrian Peterson gave him a pep talk, too.

"I don't want you to walk in there with any doubt about your future here as our starting quarterback," Frazier told Ponder before his postgame news conference. "Next ballgame, you're going to be our starter."

The Vikings finished with four straight wins to secure a wild-card spot.

"Obviously a lot has changed. I think the biggest thing for me was making better decisions," Ponder said. "Obviously I made some bad decisions in that first game. It's something that I knew I had to improve upon."

Sunday, Ponder matched his career high with three touchdown passes, turning in his fifth turnover-free performance of the year and taking only one sack in the most important NFL game he's played in. His 65-yard completion to Jarius Wright that set up one of those scores was his longest of the season.

"I don't think my confidence ever really was shaken or anything. I think it just goes back to obviously understanding what I can and can't do. I can't force things that aren't there," Ponder said.

Seahawks aim to end playoff road futility

While they are one of the hottest teams going into the postseason, there's a lot of past playoff futility for the Seattle Seahawks to overcome — nearly three decades worth.

Seemingly unbeatable at home, the road — especially in the postseason — has been a different tale for the Seahawks. It's been 29 years since Seattle last won a playoff game on the road. They have lost eight straight road playoff games since winning at Miami on Dec. 31, 1983, when only nine players on their current 53-man roster were even born.

On Sunday, Seattle (11-5) travels to the East Coast to take on another hot team, the Washington Redskins (10-6).

"If you want to be a good team you definitely got to be able to win on the road," Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said. "You never get a scenario exactly how you want it unless you fortunate enough to be like Atlanta."

The Falcons earned home field throughout the NFC playoffs by finishing 13-3.

49ERS: San Francisco signed kicker Billy Cundiff to compete with struggling veteran David Akers.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday the NFC West champion Niners (11-4-1), off this week as the NFC's No. 2 seed, planned to try out kickers.

PACKERS: Charles Woodson has been cleared to play again, and Green Bay is counting on the defensive back to provide a lift in Saturday night's playoff game against Minnesota.

Woodson deferred to team physician Pat McKenzie and gave his broken collarbone as much time to heal as possible, sitting out Sunday's regular-season finale at Minnesota. He was injured on Oct. 21.

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