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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) in the second quarter.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Adrian Peterson picks up slack in ugly win

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • October 22, 2012 - 6:30 AM

It might be a quarterback's league, but a running back walked out of Mall of America Field with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf's purple tie Sunday.

"Pretty nice, huh?" asked Adrian Peterson, showing Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman the trophy Wilf occasionally passes out to a star player after a victory.

Seconds later, Peterson explained why he thinks the Vikings can be a Super Bowl contender after an offensively ugly 21-14 victory over Arizona.

"We have shown that we can be productive in the run game and the pass game," Peterson said. "Obviously, [quarterback] Christian [Ponder] didn't play as well as he would have liked and as well as we would have liked today. But you have those games. That's why we're a team."

Ponder had the worst passer rating (35.5) of any game he's started and finished in his two-year career. But Peterson had another benchmark game against Arizona. A year after he ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, Peterson faced a steady dose of eight- and nine-man fronts and still crushed the Cardinals again with 153 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries (6.7). Throw in 6 more yards on two receptions, and Peterson accounted for 76.1 percent of the team's 209 yards of offense. Not bad for a guy with a tender ankle.

"It's just nice to rely on other guys to take over the game for you," Ponder said. "Obviously, Adrian did that today. It definitely takes pressure off of me as a quarterback."

A week ago, Peterson lamented his lack of aggression as the Vikings settled for three field goals in three first-quarter red-zone trips en route to a loss at Washington. Peterson changed that on the Vikings' first red-zone play against the Cardinals.

On first-and-10 from the Arizona 13, Peterson took a handoff left, cut back to the middle and shot through a hole. He slammed through safeties Adrian Wilson and James Sanders inside the 5-yard line and reached the ball across the goal line with his right hand for a 7-0 lead with 8 minutes, 46 seconds left in the opening quarter. On the day, the Vikings went 2-for-2 on touchdowns in the red zone after going 2-for-7 a week ago.

Peterson had 92 yards rushing in the first half. With 6:08 left in the third quarter, he broke off a 22-yard run to surpass 100 yards. And his final carry, an 8-yard explosion on fourth-and-5 with 14 seconds left, ended the game.

"I feel like I [changed my mentality]," Peterson said. "That carried the guys. Up front [on the line], the fullbacks, the receivers, they were really out there being aggressive. That's the type of football we want to play."

Naturally, after the game, there was another round of questions about whether Peterson is 100 percent back from the left knee reconstruction he had done last December.

"Well," said receiver Percy Harvin, "If he's not 100, I'd say he's 99.8."

And he's got the purple tie to prove it.

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