Nobody defends Christian Ponder from criticism more than Adrian Peterson. As a running back, Peterson has to block on passing plays for the Vikings quarterback, and he will openly take the blame sometimes when last year's first-round draft choice is pressured or sacked.
As the Vikings have stressed all week, the improvement of the blocking will have to start Sunday at Seattle against a Seahawks defensive group that is much better than the Tampa Bay unit that made it very tough for the Vikings in their previous game.
"I feel like things will pick up," said Peterson, who will need a very big day rushing for the Vikings to win this game. "We have to do a lot of things better with protecting to give him more time, and be more efficient in the run game.
"I'm sure he'd take ownership of how he's been playing. And in this league, that's what you want to do: evaluate yourself, improve each week and see how you can improve. That's the approach he's been taking and we're supporting him and supporting each other as a team. This is the week where I feel like we're going to get back on track."
Does Peterson still believe in Ponder as the team's quarterback? "Yeah, I have confidence in him. I think we all can [play better]. We left a lot out there on the field [against Tampa Bay]. We all played hard, but we always look at what we can do better."
Told that one of the coaches said he believes Peterson is running faster since he had his knee surgery, the great running back said: "I feel like I am. I agree with you. I haven't had time to time myself [in the 40-yard dash]. But yeah, I feel like I was moving fast."
Tougher times before
Peterson cited his life situation outside of football as a factor in helping him deal with the adversity of the knee injury to get back on the field. He has been through many tougher situations in his life.
"There's a lot of things I've been through, the loss of my brother being the most significant situation I've had to deal with," said Peterson, whose older brother, Brian, was killed by a drunk driver at age 9. "That happened to me at a young age and being with my mom and supporting her through, it being tough for her, through that time of grieving.
"It definitely helps you because you see things differently. When I was going through adversity [after surgery], you know you have to go through some stuff to be able to deal with it. That's how I was able to bounce back real quick and get my mind right and not pouting or getting down on myself, I turned it around."
Against Arizona two games ago, Peterson recorded his 67th career rushing touchdown, the fourth-most through 80 games in league history, behind only Emmitt Smith (78), Jim Brown (76) and LaDainian Tomlinson (73).
"These guys are great. Jim Brown is one of the best to ever do it, Emmitt Smith is one of the best. But the work that I put in, and the offensive line and the things they do for me as well, but I work hard, work extremely, extremely hard," Peterson said.
Better team won
Going against one of the best defenses in the Big Ten in Michigan, the Gophers failed to score touchdowns three times in the red zone, including two drives that stalled inside the 5. When that occurs, upsets won't happen.
Still, the Gophers certainly performed better in the 35-13 loss than they did at Ann Arbor last year when, with Denard Robinson playing and not sitting out like he did Saturday, the Wolverines beat the Gophers 58-0.
Coach Jerry Kill told the story of the game in a short sentence. "Michigan made the plays, and we had the opportunities but didn't do so," he said.
The Gophers had many opportunities to make it a closer game and maybe even score a big upset, but they failed when offered. One big issue Saturday was the passing game, with Philip Nelson completing only 16 of 29 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown, with receivers as responsible for the bad days as the passer. No doubt the passing game was hurt by the absence of injured top receiver A.J. Barker.
The Gophers didn't help themselves with two crucial pass interference penalties, both of which set up Wolverines touchdowns. Michigan's first touchdown occurred after Devin Gardner -- Robinson's backup QB the past two years but a receiver this season before Saturday -- escaped the Gophers defense after being well-trapped and threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Drew Dileo.
Now the Gophers go on the road to Illnois next week, and they will have to play better if they want to earn a sixth victory and an invitation to a bowl game.
• Jared Allen talking about Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch: "[Wilson is] obviously loose in the pocket and creating passing lanes for himself, and I think the best thing they do is run the football. Marshawn Lynch, I think the last few games he's had over 100 [yards] and he's a good running back. We just have to sound up our fundamentals and get after the quarterback when we have a chance." The Vikings defensive end added: "It's going to be a fun game. It's another NFC opponent. I mean, you looked at the game and you thought it wouldn't be that bad and all of a sudden it's pretty tough. They are playing good ball right now, they lost a tough one last week, that team will be battling."
• Adrian Peterson leads the NFL in rushing yards with 775 while Lynch is second with 757; those two stars might decide Sunday's game. Are they similar? Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who held that role with the Vikings from 2006 to 2010, said: "Probably just as far as being relentless. I think both these guys are angry [runners] and are real determined to get extra yards."
• Jordan Hinojosa, a 6-2, 285-pound defensive tackle from Miami who was one of the Gophers' top recruits a year ago but had academic problems, is playing this fall for Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College and will be in school at Minnesota in January.
• The word in Los Angeles is that the Angels won't re-sign outfielder Torii Hunter, who said earlier this year he would consider returning to the Twins, but it's unlikely to happen with the Twins outfield pretty much set for now.
• Gophers baseball pitching coach Todd Oakes has made a complete recovery from acute leukemia after getting a bone marrow transplant. A benefit for Oakes will be held next Saturday at Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Club in Jordan.