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Updated: September 26th, 2010 8:50pm
Pelissero: Peterson's big day covers up many of same old flaws for Vikings

Pelissero: Peterson's big day covers up many of same old flaws for Vikings

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The freeze frames surely will appear in C.C. Brown's dreams for nights to come.

Adrian Peterson disappearing on the cutback.

Adrian Peterson bursting out from behind the blocks of Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Cook.

Adrian Peterson jabbing a powerful left arm into the chest of Brown, the Detroit Lions' overmatched safety, who chases in vein as the Minnesota Vikings' All-World halfback accelerates to the right sideline and then to the end zone as 63,377 fans finally find reason to stand and roar.

It's the sort of image that can wipe away all the others of a day the NFC North Division's perennial bottom feeder spent more than 40 minutes on the brink of sending the Vikings to 0-3 abasement on their home field.

With 3 minutes, 1 seconds left in the third quarter, Peterson's career-long 80-yard touchdown injected life into the Metrodome and particularly the Vikings sideline, where Brett Favre raced to lead the cheers of the turning point in Sunday's 24-10 decision.

"It's hard to grind it, grind it, grind it and nickel-dime it," said Vikings coach Brad Childress, whose offense didn't generate another play longer than 24 yards.

"Obviously, when you can have an explosion like that, that's huge and that lifts everybody."

It sure seemed to lift Favre, who had taken a beating behind a line without starting center John Sullivan (calf) and played much of the second half without security blanket Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring).

"I'll take points any way we can get them, regardless of how we play," Favre said. "That sure takes a lot of pressure off of me and the passing game when you can do that."

Take away that Peterson's game-breaking gallop, though, and the Vikings were much the same offensively as they were in losses to New Orleans and Miami.

They committed costly turnovers, including Favre's intercepted screen pass that led to a three-play, 12-yard touchdown drive and gave Detroit an early 7-0 lead.

They took advantage of a fluky turnover -- Stefan Logan's muffed punt that Chad Greenway recovered -- and a blown coverage to knot the score on a 24-yard touchdown to wide open Percy Harvin that Favre nearly overthrew.

They put together only one protracted touchdown drive, capped by Peterson's 6-yard scoring run with 4:48 left in the second quarter.

And they had costly breakdowns in protection, highlighted by Cliff Avril's speed move past right tackle Phil Loadholt that led to a batted-arm interception and a Jason Hanson field goal -- cutting the Vikings' lead to 14-10 at halftime.

"We can't keep Brett on his feet," said Harvin, who led the Vikings with six catches for 62 yards.

"And the ball is getting tipped by (defensive backs) or whatever, (players) hitting Brett's hands. There are just little things we can clean up. But we have to start with keeping Brett on his feet and we can go from there."

Ryan Longwell's 31-yard field goal on the second half's opening drive and Peterson's long touchdown exceeded the 19 points the Vikings had generated in their first two outings.

But the defense was doing just fine without the help again, holding a Lions offense that played without quarterback Matthew Stafford (shoulder) and lost halfback Jahvid Best (toe) just after halftime to 295 net yards and two short-field scoring drives before sealing the decision with consecutive goal-line interceptions.

That and Peterson's monster day -- 160 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries (7.0 average), plus five receptions for 30 yards -- were enough to cover up the same old failings that had mortally wounded the Vikings the past two weeks.

"It was definitely a sense of urgency," said Peterson, who ranked second in the NFL by day's end with 392 rushing yards.

"Starting 0-2 -- it definitely wasn't our plan, and going into our bye week, these guys had this mentality that ... we've got to come out and get this win."

Doing so allowed the Vikings to avoid catastrophe. But reducing these still-in-transition Lions to cheap shots and lame pleas to officials only proved things we already knew -- Peterson is as dangerous as anyone with the ball in his hands, and the Vikings defense can (and did) shut down an offense with a lot of holes.

The Vikings still must show they can protect Favre, who was sacked twice, officially hit five times and finished one drive while trying to shake off a shoulder stinger on his way to a 68.4 passer rating.

They still must show they have wide receivers capable of being more productive than this --season highs of 14 receptions, 137 yards and one touchdown -- against secondaries that aren't among the league's worst.

They still must show they can reduce penalties (12 for 100 yards) and turnovers (three).

Ultimately, they still must show they can put up enough points to beat the sort of teams they'll face after next week's bye, beginning with the New York Jets, Dallas, Green Bay and New England.

And for now, the only player they can lean on to change the game offensively is the one Brown dreamed about on the plane ride back to Detroit.

"We're struggling, no doubt about it," Favre said. "Our defense ... in my mind, they're playing outstanding. You're expecting the Vikings offense from last year that was able to put up a bunch of points. That sure helps the defense -- they can kind of pin their ears back. Anytime we can get a big play -- we need a big play. We need points."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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