DETROIT – The reigning NFL MVP told a couple of teammates early last week that he envisioned himself “taking it to the house” on the Vikings’ first offensive play of Sunday’s game against the Lions.
One play and 78 explosive yards later, with the Vikings leading 7-0 after their first offensive play, Peterson and those two teammates came to the sideline and just smiled.
“They were like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it happened,’ ” Peterson said. “And I was like, ‘I can’t either.’ ”
New receiver Greg Jennings was one of those teammates.
“I even told Adrian, ‘Man, I finally get to be a part of this and cheer for it,’ ” said Jennings, a former Packer. “But on the sideline, we also talked to each other and said, ‘That’s not going to win us the game. The first play of the first quarter is not going to win the game.’ ”
Roughly 56 minutes later, Jennings was proven correct. Despite three touchdowns from Peterson, the Vikings suffered a 34-24 season-opening loss in front of 62,461 fans who didn’t know whether to boo the sloppy Lions or cheer the sloppier Vikings.
“This,” said Peterson, “is a game I feel we gave away.”
Yes, the Vikings turned the ball over four times. Yes, two of them led to Detroit touchdowns, including a fumbled exchange between quarterback Christian Ponder and Peterson with 11:36 left, the Vikings down by three points and moving the ball at their 38. Ponder was stumbling backward over guard Brandon Fusco’s foot when he botched the exchange and was credited with the fumble.
“Nine times out of 10, I still get that handoff,” Peterson said. “So I put that [turnover] on me. I still got to get that handoff.”
The Vikings ran the ball 21 more times after Peterson’s 78-yard score. They gained just 27 yards, including a 4-yard TD by Peterson. He had 17 more carries but gained only 15 more yards and finished with 93.
“When you’re just relying on a splash play from Adrian, that’s not going to win us the amount of ballgames that we want to win,” said Jennings, who caught three passes for 33 yards. “It’s not going to be a great day every single day. Collectively, as a team, we got to pull it together.”
Peterson credited the Lions with having one of the best defensive fronts the Vikings will face all season. But he also called on his offensive line to step it up.
“They started crowding more guys around the line of scrimmage, and they were shooting the gaps a lot [after the long run],” Peterson said. “We just have to be on the same page as far as the offensive line to get a handle on those guys. Chop them down. Do whatever it takes to keep them from getting penetration. I think that was the biggest difference after that first play of the game.
“But,” Peterson added, “our guys are resilient. They’ll bounce back, and they’ll see the things we need to improve on and I expect them to respond in a positive way.”