After slow start, Adrian Peterson got 'back to being an assassin'
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ST. LOUIS -- Adrian Peterson found himself doing something uncharacteristic early in the Minnesota Vikings' game against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Not just getting stopped. That happens occasionally, even to the best running back in the NFL.
Peterson gained only 8 yards on his first eight carries -- and he was letting the Rams' attacking defense get to him.
"This is probably the most I've talked trash in six years. Seriously," Peterson said. "Because these guys was coming in, hitting late -- not really late, but getting some extra hits in. I love it, because I play with that same passion.
"But I got up in some of the guys' face a couple of times, and I had to get away from that. Get back to being an assassin. Not saying anything. Just hitting them."
It didn't take long.
Peterson's ninth carry went 82 yards for a touchdown, propelling the Vikings' second-quarter surge on the way to a 36-22 win.
"It was kind of a perfect storm for him to hit that run with what we had lined up and the play they called," Rams end Chris Long said. "We continued to just pound away at it, but that's a damn, damn good football player and he made some really good plays out there."
Peterson added a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter and finished with 212 yards on 24 carries (8.8 average) -- his eighth consecutive 100-yard game (a team record) and second 200-yard performance in three weeks.
His 1,313 rushing yards during that stretch are an NFL record for eight games and he has a career-high 1,812 yards this season -- just 293 yards shy of Eric Dickerson's 28-year-old, single-season record of 2,105 with two games to go.
"It's in the back of my head that I definitely want to accomplish that," Peterson said. "So, I'm just going to continue to let the chips fall where they may. I look at (Sunday)'s game -- I could have had 300. You know what? It wasn't meant to happen. We got the 'W'. You got closer. Just move on, keep playing football."
The 82-yard run came on a lead draw play that perfectly exploited the Rams' blitz, although Peterson nearly cut into the man fullback Jerome Felton had blocked.
"They kept crashing some guys down inside to make us bounce the football to try to get us to go sideways, rather than doing the things we've had so much success with," coach Leslie Frazier said. "And they had some success early, getting us to bounce some plays. But we eventually got what we wanted."
That touchdown made it 14-7, and the Vikings pushed their lead to 33-7 in the third quarter before the Rams offense made things interesting.
The lead was down to 33-22 midway through the fourth quarter when Peterson cut back a play that was doomed to the left, bounced off two defenders and went 52 yards to set up a field goal.
"It was congested, so I was trying to make a way out of no way," Peterson said. "They had got within two touchdowns. We needed something done productive on offense. So, I just kept fighting."
In Dickerson's record-breaking 1984 season, he had 1,792 yards through 14 games -- 20 fewer than Peterson, who was born the following year.
That Peterson was coming off left knee reconstruction and wasn't cutting at full tilt the first month or so only makes his performance more astounding.
"It's unreal. I haven't seen anything like it," veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield. "I have been around a lot of football, seen a lot of great players, but he is number one on my list."
Peterson says he's not focused on the record. But he has spoken often about wanting to be regarded as the greatest of all-time.
"Just mental. My mindset. My willpower," Peterson said. "Just my determination, and that's something that I show on the field when I play. The things that people don't see is how hard I work during the offseason. I grind, hard.
"When you want to be great -- in my head, I want to be the greatest to ever play -- you can't talk about it. You've got to go out and work."