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.