Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Reusse: This isn't close to the MVP Adrian

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: November 17, 2013 - 9:45 PM

Is anyone still holding onto the idea that Adrian Peterson is the same running back that he was in 2012? If you're a Vikings fan and believe that, you're dreaming.

Nobody wants to say it. Everybody wants to blame Peterson's dropoff on poor quarterback play (mostly from Christian Ponder) or a decline in performance from the offensive line.

Ponder's play was subpar for a large hunk of last season. The offensive line has been the same group as in 2012, until a recent spat of injuries.

Ponder's inability to make opposing defenses pay for eight-man fronts in 2013 hasn't been all that much different than his inability to make opposing defenses pay for eight-man fronts in 2012.

You could make the excuse the Vikings were 6-4 at this point at year ago, and they are 2-8 after Sunday's embarrassment in Seattle, and that means they can't be feeding the ball and running strong with Peterson in fourth quarters.

Except, there have been four games -- the opening loss in Detroit, the late losses to Chicago, Cleveland and Dallas -- where a dominant fourth quarter from the MVP running back would have allowed the Vikings to come away with a victory.

Make all the excuses you want for Peterson. He's back to dancing at the hole as was the case in his most-ineffective moments during his first five seasons in the NFL.

I'm not saying there were long stretches when Peterson did that from 2007 through 2011, but there were those stretches, and they always made him less the monster than he was in the magnificent 2,097-yard season of 2012.

When he's jumping laterally before he gets to the hole, Peterson is looking for the big pop. On occasion he finds it on the cutback, and turns loose the jets, and it's tremendous to watch. But for the most part, when he's cutting a step before he gets to the line, he's largely doing a favor to the defense.

Peterson is at his best when he hits the line directly, pops through a slappy tackle or two, and then starts making his cuts.

Famously, Peterson was coming back from reconstructive knee surgery a year ago. Rather than limit him, it became an advantage for Peterson.

He was going to prove people wrong and get back for the season opener. He worked out with a ferocity for months that clearly made Peterson stronger and equally as fast as at any time in his NFL career.

Throw in more-determined and a 27-year-old Adrian Peterson was a sight to behold in leading the Vikings to the playoffs and becoming a worthy MVP winner ... even over Peyton Manning.

This year? He's not even the MVP for a 2-8 Vikings team. Who that might be, I don't know, but it's not Peterson.

In 2012, Peterson was short of electric through the first six weeks of the season. He had 113 carries for 499 yards, an average of 4.42 yards per attempt. And then starting with 153 yards vs. Arizona on Oct. 21, all Hades broke loose.

Right in the midst of some lousy play from Ponder, Peterson started a 10-game push when he carried 235 times for 1,598 games for an average of 6.8 yards per rush. He finished the season with an average of 6.03 yards per carry.

Facing the same fronts, with similar quarterback play in 2013, Peterson has carried 195 times for 851 yards -- an average of 4.36 yards per carry. This comes in a season that started with a 78-yard touchdown run on the Vikings' first offensive play in the opener at Detroit.

Throw out that one, and in the 194 carries since then, Peterson is averaging 3.98 yards per carry.

The current 4.36 is the lowest average of his career. And 3.98 ... that's James Starks (2010-12) territory.

Whine about Ponder. Rip the offensive line. It doesn't change the truth:

Adrian Peterson isn't the same running back when it comes to strength, speed or determination that the football world and Vikings fans saw a year ago.

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