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What, if anything, can we read into Adrian Peterson’s slow start?

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson rushed for 31 yards on only 10 carries in the Vikings’ season-opening loss at San Francisco last year leaving some to question why he wasn’t a bigger part of the game plan.

Carries wasn’t an issue for Peterson on Sunday, the Pro Bowl running back was given the ball 19 times, but he still underwhelmed in the yardage department by, once again, gaining only 31 yards, or an average of 1.6 per attempt.

The difference was that this time the Vikings came away with a 25-16 victory in Tennessee. The 31-year-old Peterson, who again did not play in the preseason, has not rushed for 100 yards in a season-opener since 2009, when he ran for 180 yards on 25 carries with three touchdowns in Cleveland.

Since then Peterson has run for 87 yards on 19 carries in New Orleans (2010); 98 yards on 16 carries in San Diego (2011); 84 yards on 17 carries against Jacksonville (2012); 93 yards on 18 carries in Detroit (2013); and 75 yards on 21 carries in St. Louis (2014).

There was debate about whether the Vikings should have played Peterson in the preseason in large part because Zimmer brought up the topic in his end-of-the-season press conference. Zimmer’s thinking was logical and based on Peterson’s struggles in San Francisco. Ultimately the decision was left up to Peterson and the veteran decided it was wise to continue sitting out in order to avoid injury.

Peterson last appeared in an exhibition game in 2013, and he hasn’t carried a ball in the preseason since returning from knee surgery in 2012. Peterson, who failed to catch a pass in a game only twice last season, also was unable to bring in either of the balls thrown to him by veteran journeyman Shaun Hill.

Of course, with Hill starting at quarterback, Peterson was the primary focus of a Titans defense that is coordinated by the legendary Dick LeBeau.

“We’re not going to play a game this year that they aren’t going to key in on Adrian Peterson,” Zimmer said. “(Jurrell) Casey’s a good player up front, (Brian) Orakpo’s a good player, (Derrick) Morgan’s a good player. They were physical at the point of attack. … I thought there were maybe some more runs in there that we could have hit better but we didn’t. “

Zimmer also acknowledged that “that’s going to be part of the deal,” and, “open up other areas.” Hill found that to be the case at times on Sunday, completing seven passes for 103 yards to Stefon Diggs, four passes for 65 yards to Kyle Rudolph and four passes for 54 yards to Adam Thielen.

“Hopefully, we can keep moving and make them pick their poison,” Zimmer said.

The question now is which Peterson will the Green Bay Packers get next Sunday in the Vikings’ first regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium? Peterson rebounded from his rough start a year ago to rush for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games, including 134 on 29 carries against Detroit in Week 2.

However, Peterson’s 31-yard performance Sunday marked the sixth time in seven games, including the Vikings’ playoff loss to Seattle, in which he hasn’t reached the 100-yard mark.

Peterson fans will say that Sunday’s game was simply the continuation of a pattern that it takes him time to get into a groove. The pessimists will worry that time is beginning to catch up with the future Hall of Famer.

Which is the truth? As long as the Vikings’ keep winning, they probably aren’t going to worry about it.

  • Talltales08

    AP looked like he was getting ready to be on “Dancing With The stars” the way he approached the line today. When he was younger he would hit the hole with bad intent. The last few years it’s been as if he’s afraid of contact, very tentative.

    • jason lynn

      Agreed.. totally. Asiata hit the line much much harder.

  • Gordon Guffey

    JMHO here so its worth nothing ~

    If AP cant play in the preseason then he couldn’t be the key RB in game one and maybe game two ~ McKinnon and Asiata should have been the key RB’s today ~ Both are better pass blocker and catching the ball out of the backfield

    On a side Patterson had his best over all day sense Norv took over the Vikings offense ~ He had a great return to help kick start the second half ~ He had a tough catch and a good end around while Wright who is healthy set ~ ??? Whats going on here ?

    The OL still needs to gel ~ The good news is this was only game one so there ~ Hopefully everyone stays healthy ~

    • Marc Noel

      Theilen has clearly overtaken Wright on the depth chart, could be his time at Minnesota is almost over. Attempt to move Wright prior to final cuts suggest he no longer figures in the long term plans.

  • Andre Esters

    The ongoing debate… is AP missing valuable time to refine in the preseason, or is the Vikings Oline struggling against 9-10 helmets storming the front?

    Should be interesting to see how things look once Bradford is in the mix.

  • Marc Noel

    Lots of moving parts which are contributing to the running game being ineffective. O line not coming off the snap with any conviction and Peterson trying too hard to force things which are not there. He has to get away from the notion that he can break the big run with every carry and just be patient and take the 4 or 5 hard yards that are on offer. Not helping either that the coaches do not seem sure whether Peterson benefits from Line being in the game, running game under Norv remains a work in progress unfortunately.

  • Gary

    I have been saying for 2 years that AP is the most overrated player in the NFL. He is a one dimensional running back that turns the ball over way to often. It’s not even that he is essentially worthless on 3rd down but he also is only comfortable running as a single back set at 7 yards deep. Is there any other running back in the NFL that has to have the offense tailored to them more then Peterson? The offensive line isn’t creating large holes but it was pointed out by Chris Spielman (who by the way is the best TV analyst on Fox now) that he missed a couple of large cutback lanes. Until the coaches realize it is time to cut AP’s carries and give McKinnon and even Asiata some more snaps on 1st and 2nd down the offense is going to be in way too many 3rd and long situations.

    • nikoli

      Leads the league in rushing… and is overrated. Only comfortable in single back sets? You’re clearly a complete idiot.

      • Gary

        Yes, leading the league when you received 39 more carries then Doug Martin who had a whopping 83 less yards rushing. The people that are idiots are the ones who are blinded by big totals, the problem is that doesn’t tell you how efficient he was at accumulating that total.
        Sorry, but I am pretty positive AP himself has said he prefers single back sets and it is quite evident that he is not comfortable in the shotgun, he has had success in the I formation though. For a guy like you that likes numbers, in AP’s last 7 games he is averaging 3.0 yards per carry. He’s overrated, over-hyped, overpaid, overused and until the coaches realize that this offense will struggle to have an identity and be multifaceted.

    • Marc Noel

      Vikings also have to throw more on first down. Best way to get defenses from stacking nine in the box against Peterson would be to complete a couple of first down throws.

      • Gary

        That is 100% correct but it’s been the same every game AP has played. I think the fact that Peterson is worth less on 3rd down unless it’s 3rd and short the coaches feel like they have to force feed him on 1st and 2nd down. The blocking isn’t very good and he is a good runner but he’s just not a complete player.

        • Marc Noel

          I think as a pure runner Peterson will likely end his career top 5 all time. But when it comes to being an every down back I completely agree he has several weakensses in his game, especially when he has to block on third down passing situations. People have suggested that Bridgewater and Peterson are not really an ideal fit for one another and that ties in with your point about force feeding Peterson on early downs.Could be that Norv Turner is a little bit restricted in his play calling with Peterson in the backfield. Would be interesting to look at the pass / run ratio called on first down when Peterson was suspended last season.

    • John Reiff

      you are a moron…look at his stats

      • Gary

        What stats? Total rushing yards is the only stat that he excelled in last year. Please, enlighten me.

        • Marc Noel

          Peterson is a boom or bust type of runner, his yards per carry average would be horrendous without the one or two big runs he usually manages per game.

          • Gary

            I think having a consistent running game without the limitations of Peterson’s game is more important then having a guy with the “homerun hitting” ability. Our passing game suffers because our offense is predictable, and when AP’s not getting big chunks of yards we are in 3rd and long way too often. I am not saying he should never play and that he is terrible, just that he should be a piece of the puzzle instead of the featured part of our offense.

          • Marc Noel

            Could not agree more. Without a balnced offense it is so difficult to win consistently in the NFL and that means having a developed franchise quarterback alongside a workhorse, every down running back. Worked well for teams like NE, Seattle and Green Bay who have been top of the pile for several years now. Having said all that why have Chicago struggled with Cutler and Forte carrying the offense ?

          • naturallythe1

            He NOW is a boom or bust and has been for a few years…but years ago, he’d scratch and claw and dig his way for an extra 3-4 yards on a play that was essentially dead. He can’t do it anymore. Now of course he is injured too yet. Years ago I’d remember watching games and seeing him scratch out 5 yards on a play with little to no space to work with. Now if there is no space he is down immediately. But yes, as of the last few years, he is lucky to get one 40+ yard run and then avg 2 the rest of his carries to get to 100 yards.

          • Marc Noel

            He seems to have lost that ” running angry ” style that he had in previous seasons, guess that comes with turning 30 years of age and the amount of punishment he has taken over the course of his career.

            Sadly I feel we may have seen the last to AP running with authority on every carry and while It would be great for him to finish his career in the Twin cities there is no longer any justification for him to be the central feature of the Vikings offense.

    • John Reiff

      um tds, rushing yards over how many seasons? come on man take your hatin elsewhere

  • MDFBALLER

    It really doesn’t matter this team will go as far as the DEFENSE take’s them!

  • patrick

    and in the 2013 game, 78 of his 93 yards came on the first play from scrimmage. hopefully if he’s on the team next year, he gets work in the preseason, I think he needs it. back in 2012 and prior, 9 or 10 in the box, no problem, he’d get through the first wave. now, he seems way to tentative hitting the hole and trying to always hit the home run instead of taking the 4-5 yards available

  • Troy Ricklefs

    I don’t buy the pre-season reps are important argument. He’s get maybe 10-15 more reps at best. He probably gets more than that every day in practice… Practice reps should mean more than a meaningless game.

    Personally I blame our vanilla run offense. They ran between the tackles every play, that’s only 4 holes to choose from. Putting more blockers in the backfield doesn’t help because the defense just puts 1 more guy in the box and the you have to block 8 or 9 guys now.

    They didn’t run any draw plays and no screens. They only ran 1 fake screen hand off and I think that went for a gain. Maybe the vikings were trying to win without putting anything on tape for Green Bay to see. If that was the goal, good job.

  • irene

    Game 1. AP will be fine. He demands attention, yes, opposing teams stack the box… but if you ignore him …..he will punish you. The VIKES are in a tough position this year, Hill and Bradford (neither are mobile) have changed everything up. Teddy’s past mobility opened things up for AP. Turner could not possibly change the entire playbook in less than two weeks. Believe AP would have had a much better week one if the Vikes had a healthy Teddy in backfield. The Vikings have to change up blocking schemes etc with the immobility of Hill and Bradford, that can’t happen in 8 days.. I think with some changes AP will go off, but Turner is going to need time to redo his playbook.

  • Joshua Vogel

    Well I’m hoping for my sake he’s just continuing the trend of bad first game lol!! Didn’t break the bank on the trade for him though. Gave up Michael Crabtree and t.j yeldon.





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Previous Story 4 thoughts: Blair Walsh, Shaun Hill turnover-free, defense terrific in win Next Story Which Vikings grabbed the highest Pro Football Focus grades vs. Titans?