Zulgad: Adrian Peterson attempts to shoulder some of the blame for loss
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Adrian Peterson watched the Minnesota Vikings passing game again sputter all afternoon Sunday at Lambeau Field. Meanwhile, the Vikings Pro Bowl running back ran for a season-high 210 yards on 21 carries, including a career-best 82-yard touchdown dash.
He added a 48-yard run on the Vikings' opening play from scrimmage in the third quarter, taking the ball to the Green Bay 12-yard line. That drive ended with the first of Christian Ponder's two interceptions in the Vikings' 23-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
So where did Peterson place the blame for the fact the Vikings (6-6) lost for the fourth time in five games and fell to .500 for the first time since Week 2 of the season?
On his own shoulders, of course.
This wasn't just some vague attempt by an athlete to brush off the media with an easy answer that he hoped would chase reporters away.
Peterson cited two examples of plays on which he felt he should have done more.
The first was the 48-yard run that ended with Packers cornerback Tramon Williams making the tackle 12 yards from the end zone. The second occurred later in the third quarter after Vikings safety Harrison Smith intercepted Aaron Rodgers' deep pass for Greg Jennings at the Minnesota 6-yard line.
Peterson took a handoff from Ponder on first down and proceeded to gain 6 yards.
"If I'm just a second more patient I take that to the crib," said Peterson, who has rushed for an NFL-leading 1,446 yards this season. "It's a 94-yard run. I look back on that and say, 'That could have changed the game.' ... The long run to the left (that went for 48 yards), being able to step out of that tackle and take that to the end zone. Those are the things that come to my mind. See what I can do better."
Peterson came off as completely sincere in his analysis of what he could have done better, although no one was buying that he deserved any of the blame for the Vikings' loss. Not after Ponder completed only 12 of 25 passes for 119 yards and posted a feeble 41.9 passer rating.
Not after the Vikings did not have a wide receiver catch a pass until their second-to-last drive of the game. Peterson's presence should mean the Vikings' vertical passing game is able to thrive, given there is such focus on the damage the veteran can do when the football is put in his hands.
So why isn't it working that way? Even a little bit.
"I don't know. It's a good question. I don't know," Peterson said. "There were some missed opportunities and dropped balls. Christian kind of missed, didn't connect a couple of times. If we're able to eliminate those things, we have a different outcome today."
Peterson, who set a Vikings franchise record by rushing for more than 100 yards for the sixth game in a row, even worked overtime on Sunday. He spent time in the locker room after the game telling Ponder to hang in there and that he would be fine.
"I'm just extremely proud of his attitude and his approach," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said of Peterson. "He ... wants to win as (bad as) anybody, and that is the only accomplishment that he is concerned about. He's disappointed by the fact that we didn't win.
"The fact that he ran for 210 -- that's important, but it's not as important to him as the fact that we didn't win the game. That's the beauty of Adrian Peterson. He's the total team guy. He just wants to win, and it's just disappointing that we couldn't win this game when he had such a great day in this environment. You want to see him celebrate, and it's hard to celebrate after (Sunday)'s loss."
Peterson had not rushed for 200 or more yards in a game since his rookie season in 2007 when he ran for 224 yards on Oct. 14 at Chicago and then, three weeks later, raced for an NFL record 296 yards against San Diego.
Peterson has had some outstanding days against the Packers, rushing for more than 100 yards in five of 11 games against them.
"Man, it hurts," said Peterson, whose success this season is made more remarkable by the fact he's coming off surgery to reconstruct the ACL and MCL in his left knee. "Rushing yards mean nothing when you get an 'L.' It is a hard pill to swallow, but we have to move forward. There are two ways to look at it. Negative or positive. I choose to look at it positive every time."
Peterson's tone rarely changes in his postgame press conferences. He rarely allows anyone to see the fire that makes him so difficult to stop on the field. But Peterson did not take kindly to a question Sunday that suggested that back-to-back losses to NFC North foes Chicago and Green Bay might have revealed the fact the Vikings don't have the horses to compete with some teams.
"Do we not have the horses?" Peterson said repeating the question. "Did you not see the game today? Did you not see how that game ended? Turnovers, penalties, that's how we lost the game. We lost because we gave it to them, so we've got to correct those things. That was on us today. ... Kudos to Green Bay. They did a good job, they made plays when they needed it, but we had the opportunity to win this game and we just didn't do it."
And, despite what Peterson might have said, the fact the Vikings did not win the game was in no way his fault.