Adrian Peterson was listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Buffalo because of a sprained ankle and he had to prove to the Vikings decision-makers that he was healthy enough to play.
Peterson went through a series of drills two hours before kickoff under the watchful eyes of coach Leslie Frazier, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, running backs coach Eric Bieniemy and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman.
“I had to show them and I had to lobby too,” Peterson said. “Coach Frazier and them, they were looking out for me. But ultimately I told them, ‘Hey I can go.’”
His performance left little doubt about whether he could be effective at less than 100 percent. Peterson rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-14 victory.
Peterson eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the first time in six games, averaged 6.7 yards per carry and became only the third player in Vikings history to rush for 50-plus touchdowns in his career. Peterson now has 51 touchdown runs, one behind the team record shared by Chuck Foreman and Bill Brown.
“I was brainwashing myself the whole week, putting it in my mind that, ‘I’m going to play, I’m going to play, I’m going to play,’” Peterson said. “But Saturday when I came in and we had our walkthrough, I knew then I was going to be able to roll.”
The highlight of his performance came on a 43-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter when he found an opening and outran the defense.
“Adrian, he’s not human man,” quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said. “You watch him on a bad ankle and you think, ‘He can’t be hurt.’ The way he ran the football today, you see he’s a great player and he’s a great running back with a bum ankle.”
The Vikings defense was credited officially with only one sack.
“Is that all we had?” linebacker Ben Leber said. “It seems like we had a lot more than that. It looked like just a ton of pressure.”
The Vikings pressured and harassed Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick all game. The constant pressure clearly bothered Fitzpatrick and helped the Vikings defense force four turnovers.
“Sometimes sacks can be misleading,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “Everybody is like, ‘How many sacks do we have?’ Sometimes that’s misleading because you see one sack on the stat sheet and you think, ‘OK, they didn’t get much pressure.’ We hit him numerous times. You can hit a quarterback and rattle him a little bit and he starts throwing interceptions and starts looking at the guys in front of him rushing instead of looking downfield at the receivers.”
The Vikings held the Bills to only 41 yards and two first downs in the first half. Fitzpatrick completed only 4 of 9 passes for nine yards with one interception and a 12.0 passer rating before halftime.
“I think every time he saw us he just threw it to the closest guy he could,” defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. “We didn’t get many sacks but the pressure was there. I think we had a bunch of hits on the guy and he moved around well to keep us off of him.”
Jared Allen dominated his matchup with Bills left tackle Demetrius Bell and finishedwith one sack, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
“You’d like to get [Fitzpatrick] on the ground more, but I think that’s as effective as you can be without physically getting him on the ground,” Allen said. “He was rattled all day.”
Now you see him, now you ...
Rookie Joe Webb had been the Vikings’ third quarterback in each game this season until Sunday, meaning he had been on the inactive list and in reality would have only played in an emgerency.
But with Harvin, Greg Lewis (concussion) and Hank Baskett (healthy scratch) all inactive, Frazier decided to attempt to use Webb as one of four active wide receivers. It seemed like a good idea but Webb’s day ended in the first quarter when he suffered a pulled right hamstring while playing on a punt return.
"I was expecting a lot," of action at receiver, Webb said. "The coaches told me during the week. We had a couple of banged up guys and they were going to need me to lineup there. I just had my chance to do a couple of things. My [hamstring] just gave out on me but it’ll be all right."
Frazier acknowledged the Vikings had a "package" of plays for Webb.
Webb’s athletic ability is such that the Vikings decided to give him his first-ever reps on kickoff returns Friday and then trusted him enough to have him return Sunday’s first kickoff. Webb returned it 30 yards to the Vikings 35.
"I was trying to pop it out," he said. "I saw a little crease and was trying to just hit it as hard as I can. They told me to run downhill. That was my first time ever running a kickoff return. Now that I’ve got a chance to see it and know how I can read it up I’m sure the next one will be a lot different."
Antoine Winfield accidentally put a huge hit on teammate Ben Leber as the two converged on fullback Corey McIntyre, causing a fumble in the third quarter.
"I don’t know who’s going to get credit for that fumble,” said Leber, who got credit for the forced fumble. “All I know is I know what it feels like to get hit by ‘Toine now. He hits pretty hard.”
Said Winfield: “Just some friendly fire. He was in the way, I’m coming in to hit the fullback. Everything happens so quick out there.”
Robison steps up
Brian Robison started at left defensive end in place of Ray Edwards, who was inactive because of a high ankle sprain. Robison had a strong effort in relief with three tackles, two fumble recoveries, a pass breakup and a quarterback hit.
"I’m just making sure that every opportunity I get I’m taking advantage of," Robison said. "I try and show up on tape regardless of the situation. I can’t worry about things about playing time and stuff like that."