Wetmore: What made Adrian Peterson's great day possible?
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Adrian Peterson rushed a career-high 35 times Sunday in the Vikings' overtime win against the Bears. He rattled off 211 yards, which isn't unprecedented for Peterson but certainly impressive.
While it's a virtual certainty he'll fall well shy of his stated goal of 2,500 yards, 2013 has been a rather impressive follow-up campaign to his MVP season a year ago. What made him so effective Sunday against the Bears?
As you might expect, a combination of good blocking leading the way combined with Peterson's elite ability to break tackles.
Peterson averaged more than six yards per attempt Sunday and, according to Pro Football Focus, he amassed 112 yards before first contact and averaged 3.2 yards before contact. That could be in part based on a soft Bears run defense, but it also speaks to the lead blocking Sunday ahead of Peterson. If Peterson can run untouched for more than three yards each time he gets the ball, his blockers are doing a good job clearing a path. As bad as the Vikings offensive line looks at times in passing situations, it has quietly been good at run blocking.
As Andrew Krammer points out, the Bears' two leading tacklers Sunday were safeties - Chris Conte and Craig Steltz - illustrating that the Vikings' blockers did their job up front getting rid of defensive linemen and linebackers.
One guy in particular who had an impact Sunday: Jerome Felton. One of his blocks sprang Cordarrelle Patterson for his first-half toss sweep rushing touchdown. Head coach Leslie Frazier also gave Felton credit Monday for Peterson's big day.
"He played a heck of a game. Had a lot to do with Adrian rushing for over 200 yards, along with what our offensive line and our receivers did down the field," Frazier said of Felton.
Pro Football Focus also praised the fullback:
Given plenty of straight line runs to the point of attack, Felton consistently demolished safeties and linebackers alike ... blocking just as well whether he was sealing inside or outside, leading left or leading right. You'll struggle to find such a dominant performance from a running back/fullback combination as this.
All this talk on blocking is not to discredit Peterson's individual effort. He made eight tacklers miss, according to Pro Football Focus, which allowed him to gain his remaining 99 yards after a defender got a hand on him.
(The Bears defense is not nearly as daunting as it once was. This stat, courtesy of the PFF staff: The Bears' defense racked up 11 missed tackles this week, the sixth time they have hit double digits in 12 games this season. That is as many times as they hit that mark in 82 games over the previous five seasons.)
Entering Monday, Peterson led the NFL this season in yards after contact per attempt, at a 3.07 clip. The per-attempt metric mitigates the effect of some running backs racking up more yards after contact by virtue of having way more carries, like Peterson has. His 261 attempts are 31 more than the second-most rushed back. He's also has made more tacklers miss than every running back except Marshawn Lynch. (Lynch and Peterson are tied entering the Seahawks' Monday night showdown with New Orleans.)
Be careful to ascribe Peterson's monster second half to his quarterback, though. Peterson ran for 139 yards in the second half and overtime with Matt Cassel under center and just 72 yards with Christian Ponder. But he had 24 carries in the second half and overtime, an average of 5.79 yards per carry, while he carried 11 times for an average of 6.55 in the first half.