Sid Hartman: Peterson not getting into end zone lately

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2012 - 10:44 PM

 The All-Pro running back hasn't scored in a career-high five games, a big reason for the Vikings' red zone issues.

The fact that Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson has scored only two touchdowns this season is surely one of the major reasons that the Vikings are having trouble producing in the red zone.

The Vikings offense has gone quite a while without Peterson scoring, a rarity over his great career.

He hasn't recorded a touchdown since reaching the end zone twice in Week 1 against Jacksonville, going five weeks without a score. That is the longest touchdown drought of his career.

Prior to this season, the 2007 first-round draft pick hadn't gone more than three weeks in a row without scoring, and that only happened once, in Weeks 14-16 of the 2008 season, although he still rushed 72 times for 346 yards in those three games: victories at Detroit and Arizona followed by a home loss to Atlanta.

Four other times, Peterson went back-to-back games without a score: once in his rookie season of 2007, twice in 2008 and once in 2010. In the 12 games he played last season, he scored a touchdown in all but three of them, finishing with 13 touchdowns (12 rushing, one receiving). Right now, he's on pace to score only five touchdowns.

Surely the Vikings know that getting Peterson into the end zone and giving him the ball when they get inside the 20 will help turn around their current struggles.

The Vikings rank 19th in the NFL in red zone touchdown scoring percentage at only 50 percent. That percentage was greatly affected by them scoring just two touchdowns in seven red zone attempts against Washington last week. Their percentage this year is even down from last year's miserable 3-13 season, when they scored touchdowns on 56.6 percent of their chances.

Still the Vikings have been successful in at least producing points once they reach the red zone -- they have made 22 trips inside the 20 this season and have scored 11 touchdowns and kicked 10 field goals, a 95 percent success rate. The only time they haven't scored is when Christian Ponder threw an interception with 22 seconds left in the game Sunday.

I'm sure fans took notice during last week's loss to Washington when the Fox cameras cut to the sideline on key plays in the red zone to show Peterson standing next to his coaches.

Ponder said this week that the team fully understands the importance of using Peterson in the red zone, and that doing so eventually will lead to an uptick in Peterson's low touchdown numbers.

"I mean we have to keep giving him the ball," Ponder said. "He'll punch it in and find ways to get in."

Teague supports coach

University of Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague is in complete support of football coach Jerry Kill. Teague backed Kill and paid North Carolina $800,000 to get out of a home-and-home football series the next two years, and is negotiating to replace the Tar Heels with a home-and-home with New Mexico State.

Not to be critical of former athletic director Joel Maturi for not spending the $800,000 when he had the same opportunity, but most athletic directors wouldn't have done what Teague did and faced the PR nightmare of paying big money to weaken the schedule.

North Carolina is 5-2 this year having beaten Elon, East Carolina, Idaho, Virginia Tech and Miami (Fla.) while losing to Wake Forest and Louisville. On the basis of their record this year, the Tar Heels would be tough for the Gophers to handle next fall on the road.

New Mexico State beat the Gophers 28-21 in Minneapolis last year and wouldn't be an easy opponent on the road again next year, if the contracts are finalized.

"It was a tough decision and I am going to make the tough decisions," Teague said.

The Gophers go to Madison, Wis., this week to face the Badgers, where they have lost eight consecutive times, last winning in Madison in 1994. The Gophers have won only four of the past 19 games against the Badgers, last winning in 2003.

They have had eight different head football coaches since they last tied for a Big Ten title in 1967 and need to create a culture of winning at the U. And the Gophers aren't the only team trying to schedule nonconference teams they can beat. Most teams do it.

Jottings

• Look for former Minnetonka standout Beau Allen to be a big playmaker for the Badgers this weekend against the Gophers. Last week against Purdue, the defensive lineman blocked a punt and recorded a tackle. The week before that against Illinois he recorded three tackles, a sack and forced a fumble.

• In the Vikings' two losses this year against Indianapolis and Washington, Ponder was sacked four teams in each game, totalling 13 yards lost against the Colts and 25 yards against the Redskins. In the four victories he has taken a combined five sacks for 15 yards lost.

• That was St. Paul native Jeff Nelson who the Yankees blamed for losing Game 2 of the ALCS after he called Tigers baserunner Omar Infante safe while diving back to the bag at second, when replays showed Robinson Cano clearly tagged him out.

• Gophers hockey recruit Justin Kloos, who Thursday was named to the U.S. select team that will compete in the 2012 World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, in November, has four goals and five assists in his first five games for Waterloo of the USHL and is second in the league in scoring. ... Another Gophers hockey recruit, Hudson Fasching of Apple Valley, had a goal and two assists in the USA Under-18 Team's 6-4 exhibition loss to North Dakota on Friday night.

• Former Cretin-Derham Hall standout Michael Floyd will be in town this weekend to face the Vikings. Floyd didn't have a reception in his first two games with the Arizona Cardinals, but the Notre Dame grad has picked it up recently, grabbing seven receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown over his past four games.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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