Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Chat OT: Adrian Peterson doing so much damage with so little help

Posted by: under Quarterbacks, Vikings, NFC, Vikings coaches, Adrian Peterson Updated: December 5, 2012 - 11:11 AM

If you missed my live Vikings chat on Tuesday afternoon, you can check in here and read the back and forth in full. In addition, each week I go overtime, bringing good questions I didn’t get around to answering on the chat here to the Access Vikings blog for discussion.

Here we go …

Question 1: Adrian Peterson sure seems like he’s the undisputed best running back in the NFL again. And he’d probably be an MVP candidate if the Vikings made the playoffs. But in all honesty, in this era of pass-happy football, what does having the best running back in the league really get you? Also, has there ever been a back to lead the NFL in rushing while getting so little help from his quarterback?

Good question. And we took the liberty to find out, looking back at the past 10 rushing champions, seeing how their teams fared and assessing what their quarterbacks did. (We also projected Peterson’s final stats for this season based on his current pace.) Have at it … 

 

YR
RB
TM
CAR.
YDS
YPC
REC
YDS
TOTAL TDs
W-L
QB
TM PASS YDS/GM
‘12
Adrian Peterson
MIN
312
1,928
6.2
48
260
11
8-8
Christian Ponder
180.6
‘11
Maurice Jones-Drew
JAX
343
1,606
4.6
43
374
11
5-11
Blaine Gabbert
156.9
‘10
Arian Foster
HOU
327
1,616
4.9
66
604
18
6-10
Matt Schaub
273.1
‘09
Chris Johnson
TEN
358
2,006
5.6
50
503
16
8-8
Vince Young
194.0
‘08
Adrian Peterson
MIN
363
1,760
4.8
21
125
10
10-6
Gus Frerotte
201.1
‘07
LaDainian Tomlinson
SD
315
1,474
4.7
60
475
18
11-5
Philip Rivers
198.4
‘06
LaDainian Tomlinson
SD
348
1,815
5.2
56
508
31
14-2
Philip Rivers
213.3
‘05
Shaun Alexander
SEA
370
1,880
5.1
15
78
28
13-3
Matt Hasselbeck
227.0
‘04
Curtis Martin
NYJ
371
1,697
4.6
41
245
14
10-6
Chad Pennington
201.9
‘03
Jamal Lewis
BAL
387
2,066
5.3
26
205
14
10-6
Kyle Boller
157.3
 
‘02
Ricky Williams
MIA
383
1,853
4.8
47
363
17
9-7
Jay Fiedler
191.8
AVG
 
 
356
1,777
5.0
43
348
18
10-6
 
201.5
 
[ NOTE: The final row lists the averages of the past 10 rush champions coming into this season. Also worth noting, the rushing champions to make the postseason were Lewis, Martin, Alexander, Tomlinson (both seasons) and Peterson.]

In summary, it appears that only Jamal Lewis in 2003 and Maurice Jones-Drew last season were getting less complementary help from their passing attacks while still having monster seasons on the ground. It’s also interesting to note that six of the past 10 rushing champions have played in the postseason, including Peterson in 2008.

We’ll let you draw your own conclusions from all the other statistics above. Have fun.

Question 2: The consternation from fans and talking heads regarding Ponder is fairly entertaining. Most people didn't pick this team to win the six games it has already won. We've got no decent healthy receivers. And Ponder has now basically played one full season. How can this team possibly complete an evaluation of this QB without playing him these last 4 games?

Well, for starters, let’s just put out the reminder that the Vikings plan to give Ponder the final four games to regroup. Barring injury, he’ll likely be the starter the rest of the way. And these final four games will also add to the thorough evaluation being done by just about everyone right now, including the coaching staff and front office.

Again, though, this isn’t just about a win-loss total. It’s about trusting what you see. And for those who are increasingly agitated by Ponder, what they’re seeing is a quarterback who continues to throw costly interceptions while not making many big plays whatsoever in the passing game.

Ponder is also not using his mobility and athleticism to create a whole lot extra. This is worrisome. There’s no way around it. You look at the things Rodgers can do with his feet, the things Cutler does with his feet, heck, the things Russell Wilson is doing and there’s just a general ease about them. They’re making plays without seeming hurried or out of sorts. Ponder is not.

For Ponder, his most important priority in 2012 was to avoid negative plays – i.e. drive-killing sacks and costly turnovers. And the two picks in Green Bay were justifiable reasons for the fan base to panic a bit. Those were game-changing.

Yes, the point about having mediocre receivers is valid. But it’s not the biggest reason for Ponder’s recent slump. Plus, his inability to produce victories after the Vikings fall behind is notable. That’s part of that “it” factor. And the idea that the passing attack is struggling so badly despite seeing pretty simple coverages with minimal safety support is alarming.

Question 3: How do we light a fire under Coach Frazier? We need some emotions on the field. Sometimes it looks like he is just too cool to get excited. This is an emotional game and it needs to be reflected by the head coach!

Common question. Flawed theory. Not buying.

How much emotion does Bill Belichick show during games? How fiery do Mike McCarthy and Lovie Smith seem to you?

How about Mike Smith and Gary Kubiak, who just might be playing each other for the Lombardi Trophy two months from now.

Having a fiery head coach is not a prerequisite for having big-time success. Having a coach who can connect with players? Having a coach who can devise sharp game plans to put his team in position to succeed? Having a coach who can make good in-game decisions and adjustments? That’s much more valuable than a guy who will punt his clipboard and scream and yell and act like a lunatic.

But, hey, you could always have Rex Ryan, right?

Frazier has his own leadership style. And while it remains to be seen whether he can get the Vikings over the hump, his success or failure won’t be a result of his sideline demeanor.

Question 4: Why did AP sit out an entire series in the game against Green Bay? Why isn't he in on some third downs?

You find me a running back in the NFL who doesn’t get a series off now and again. No different with Adrian.

As for third downs, Toby Gerhart is a more reliable pass blocker and has proven more capable of providing that extra little protection. That’s it in a nutshell.

Question 5: Why do you keep saying the playoffs are out of the picture? You might have opinions on how the rest of the season will play out, but as of this very moment, they are still in the hunt.

I’m OK with the Vikings coaches and players believing the playoffs are still a possibility. They have to think that way. I’m OK with the fans holding out some hope for that, too.

Me? As an objective observer with nothing invested though, I’m making an educated guess that a team that has lost five of its last seven is not going to win the final four against strong competition.

I’m using informed insight to see that they are too flawed in too many key areas to make a run.

They haven’t won four games in a row since Favre was having his glory days here. And if you don’t think they’re going to lose another game this year, you’re nuts.

Lastly, given the NFC playoff picture, the odds are heavily stacked against them. The current divisions leaders are Atlanta, New York, Green Bay and San Francisco. That leaves a wild card hunt for two spots that includes five other teams with a record equal to or better than the Vikings’. Of those five teams, the Vikings have lost to four of them (Chicago, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington) which means that the head-to-head part of the tiebreaker equation will be a major obstacle.

There’s also the matter of conference record. The Vikings are 4-5 against the NFC. At present, among those other five wildcard contenders only Tampa Bay (3-5) has a worse NFC record.

Translation: No, the Vikings have not been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. But they’d need just about everything to break exactly right to get in.

Odds are that ain’t happening.

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
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Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
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