Only Vikings stopping Peterson

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 27, 2011 - 11:25 AM

The star running back isn't getting many second-half shots.

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Adrian Peterson

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The notion that Adrian Peterson can't or shouldn't run the ball against eight- or nine-man defensive fronts has been proven faulty at times during the running back's five seasons with the Vikings.

One of them came early in the first quarter of Sunday's 26-23 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions.

The Lions had nine defenders in the box. Yet Peterson still ran for 43 yards, sidestepping tackle Ndamukong Suh in the backfield and bursting through a gap vacated by blitzing middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch.

A day later, Peterson said "a lot" of his longer runs have come against similar stacked fronts.

"Because once I get a crease and I'm out, there's not too many guys left to beat," Peterson said. "I've been facing eight-, nine-men fronts since I've been here. Even when [Brett] Favre was here, I was facing eight- and nine-men fronts. I feel like I've got a lot of confidence in the guys up front that we can, no matter the situation or point of the game, we'll be able to run the ball."

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier agrees. And he's now making darn sure that he and his coaching staff don't forget it in light of the fact that Peterson had only five carries for 5 yards in the second half on Sunday.

"What we have to make sure we're always conscious of -- and I have to remind myself of this -- is even if Adrian gets stopped for negative [yardage] or 2 yards because they've got so many people at the line of scrimmage, he's such a great player that even against eight-man fronts, he can still make something happen," Frazier said. "You can't ever forget that. Second half, [the Lions] came with more eight-man fronts because of Adrian, for sure, and we've just got to stay with it and it will continue to open up other things."

It sounds simple considering Peterson's multiple All-Pro honors, $100 million contract and face-of-the-franchise status. But the Vikings have strayed weekly from a core philosophy built around Peterson and a ball-control attack.

Despite halftime leads of 10, 17 and 20 points, Peterson has 14 fewer second-half carries than first-half carries. In the first half, he's rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries (6.4). In the second half, he's rushed for 66 yards and no touchdowns on 22 carries (3.0).

His third-down carries on Sunday went for 2, 3 and 6 yards. He began the fourth quarter with a 14-yard run that was negated by penalty. Then came a 1-yard loss, a 2-yard gain, and a 4-yard loss on his final carry with 5 minutes, 7 seconds left.

Granted, the Vikings had the ball for only 10 of the 32 second-half and overtime minutes. And plays were limited because the Vikings were 0-for-6 on third down and 0-for-1 on a fourth down. But even Frazier admits five second-half carries just doesn't cut it.

"It's just us always [needing to be] conscious of, 'Hey, OK, it was no gain, [but] don't stop giving it to him,'" Frazier said. "Come back next series or next play and give it to him again. He's really the bell cow for our offense and everything revolves around him. So, whatever we do, any success we have will come off of what Adrian Peterson brings to us.

"So, when we struggle on offense, it's usually because Adrian is not a big part of our offense, in general, and [Sunday] was case in point."

Peterson's 43-yard run came on his fourth carry of the game. His first three runs went for 3, 1 and 4 yards. So he was averaging 2.7 yards per carry when he took off through the middle of the Lions' stacked defense.

"Case in point," Frazier said. "In that second half, we started off with a run and they stopped it for a [2-yard] gain, and there were a couple other runs where they limited yardage. But with Adrian, you've got to continue to feed him, and that's something we've got to be mindful of."

Peterson hasn't complained, but when asked if the team should give him more carries in the second half, he said, "What do you think?"

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