Analysis: Adrian Peterson gets off to hot start, but cools quickly
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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson averaged 5.2 yards per carry in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions.
However, his first carry for 78 yards and a touchdown was nothing like the next 17 attempts, in which he averaged 0.88 yards per carry, gaining just 15 more yards.
With the NFL MVP in the backfield, the Vikings led off with their run-first philosophy, but found a brick wall on the other side after Peterson's success coiled up into his first run of the day.
The Lions often piled eight or even nine defenders in the box. Against defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, who are known as some of the game's best, Peterson had no room to work with behind a struggling offensive line.
Whether it was left tackle Matt Kalil getting beat for a sack by Lions' defensive end Ziggy Ansah (who had a sack-fumble that was called back because he jumped offsides), or center John Sullivan getting hit at the knees by Suh, who was flagged for the illegal low block that negated an interception for a touchdown by linebacker DeAndre Levy, the offensive line looked out of sync.
Direction didn't matter, Peterson was stuffed at every angle on the line, which begs the question: how much was fullback Jerome Felton's absence felt? The Pro Bowl fullback is suspended for the first three games for a DUI arrest over 14 months ago.
It is worth nothing that backup fullback Rhett Ellison laid the block that sprung Peterson loose for the 78-yarder, but nothing noteworthy came out of the backfield the rest of the day.
Here's a look at Peterson's first 10 carries on Sunday:
1. Up the middle, 78-yard touchdown
2. Right tackle for 2 yards
3. Right end for -3 yards
4. Right tackle for -4 yards
5. Up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown
6. Left end for -3 yards
7. Left end for -4 yards
8. Up the middle, no gain
9. Up the middle, 2 yards
10. Up the middle 1 yard
In total, seven of Peterson's 18 carries went for a loss, not counting the botched handoff from quarterback Christian Ponder to Peterson that ended up Lions' football early in the fourth quarter.
Peterson got things going a little bit against a soft Lions' defense that simply wanted to protect their 10-point lead late in the game, ending with four receptions for 18 yards and a score.
No one is saying that Peterson is the problem, but the Vikings clearly have run blocking issues to work through as they travel to Chicago for their next game on Sept. 15.