Pelissero: Peterson will get touches, but force-feeding isn't the solution
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- There's a good chance Adrian Peterson will get more than 19 carries on Sunday, and it won't be because of the carries he didn't get in New Orleans.
It'll be because the Miami Dolphins won't have right end Jared Odrick, the first-round draft pick who suffered a fractured fibula on Sunday at Buffalo.
It'll be because the Dolphins play smallish outside linebackers on the edges of their 3-4 base defense.
It'll be because the Vikings' passing game isn't close to hitting on all cylinders, and because Peterson looked like his never-say-die self when he did get the ball against the Saints.
"He's a powerful back that can finish runs and you're going to have to tackle the guy," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said on Wednesday. "Even when you get one guy to him -- you really need to get three or four people to this guy, because he can finish runs better than anybody in the league."
It just won't be because coaches had an epiphany after Peterson got only six carries in the second half of Thursday's 14-9 loss at the Superdome -- a schematic subplot that has taken on a life of its own in the long layoff since that season-opening defeat.
Quarterback Brett Favre has put plenty of blame for the loss on himself, and rightfully so. Yet the criticism has come hotter and heavier for Vikings coach Brad Childress, who in the minds of many with microphones and/or foam fingers sunk his team's chances by abandoning the run after halftime.
Yes, that magic elixir of Adrian Peterson that is the cure for all offensive ills. That impregnably potent attack that generated all of 11 yards on Peterson's final four carries.
So tragic were Childress' errors in this regard that he garnered a 14% "approval rating" in an ESPN.com fan poll -- good for dead last among NFL coaches in Week 1.
Obscured in that madness has been the reality of how the offense's hand was forced by failings up front on almost every second-half drive.
• Drive 1, second-and-4, Vikings 38: Right tackle Phil Loadholt doesn't finish, center John Sullivan's cut misses and Peterson is stuffed after a 1-yard gain, forcing the Vikings to throw (incomplete) on third-and-3.
• Drive 2, first-and-10, Vikings 16: Sullivan stumbles on a zone-right run and misses Saints middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who sticks Peterson after another 1-yard gain. Favre throws incomplete on second- and third-and-9 -- both clear passing downs-and-distances.
• Drive 3, first-and-10, Vikings 31: Peterson gains 6 yards on a power-left run, setting up a second-and-4. The Vikings call a safe screen to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe -- but Sullivan inadvertently slings defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis into Favre, who gets sacked and then throws incomplete for Harvin on third-and-13.
• Drive 4, first-and-10, Vikings 13: The Vikings load up with three tight ends against an eight-man box, survive an obvious uncalled hold by Loadholt and get 3 yards. That leaves another borderline running situation on second-and-7, but Favre reads the defense, adjusts the call and has a slant for Shiancoe broken up.
Only on the fifth and final drive did the Vikings pass on the run altogether. But by then, it was hard to blame coaches for doubting Peterson would find anything besides unblocked yardage.
Early on, the Saints played extensively in three-man fronts and dropped eight in coverage.
"If they are gonna play soft like that," Childress said on Wednesday, "you need to be able to exert your will running the football."
The Vikings did it, too, with Peterson gaining 76 yards on his first 15 carries (5.1 average).
But with the game on the line, the Vikings went to the air -- and the failure wasn't about scheme or play-calling. Receivers were open on the three wayward third-down passes that killed drives down the stretch.
"They did do some things defensively to stop, or try and stop, what we were doing running the football, because we were running the ball well," Favre said. "But the bottom line is about getting points, and it's always easier to look back and say, 'Yeah, we should have done this, should have done that.' And if I'm Adrian, I'm sitting here telling you guys, 'Yeah, they should have gave it to me more' -- that's the type of player and guy he is, and that's good. And maybe we should have.
"But I'll go back to -- as I said after the game and I said earlier -- there were plays for me to make, and for whatever reason, I didn't make them. I make those throws ... we're probably not having this conversation."
Which is the same reason coaches surely didn't spent as much time on conversations about Peterson's lack of involvement as observers did.
Childress would have been flamed just as badly -- worse even -- had he and Darrell Bevell banged their heads against the wall with running plays on second-and-9 and third-and-7.
"I know we're going to try to get A.D. the ball a little bit more, get the ball to him more so he can do his thing," receiver Bernard Berrian said. "But I think we're still going to take our shots when they present themselves."
The Vikings offense was dangerous last season because Favre and his receivers made enough plays downfield to keep defenses honest.
Until that starts happening again, Peterson is bound to shoulder a heavier load -- but he can only carry the Vikings as far as blocking, situations and his quarterback allow.