Vikings' plan works early but not often

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 6, 2013 - 9:14 AM

An offensive strategy built around Adrian Peterson looked promising in the first quarter but quickly fell apart.

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Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ran for a short gain in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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GREEN BAY, WIS. - The Vikings' plan to bludgeon the Packers with Adrian Peterson for the third time in five weeks worked.

For five carries and about four minutes, that is.

After that, All Day was pretty much All Done as a factor in Saturday night's 24-10 playoff loss at Lambeau Field. After rushing for 33 yards on five of the game's first six plays, Peterson gained only 36 yards on his next 14 attempts as the Vikings trailed 24-3 entering the fourth quarter.

"Those guys played more patient on defense," said Peterson, who finished with 99 yards on 22 carries, none of them longer than 11 yards until he broke an 18-yarder in the fourth quarter. "They stayed backside and took away the cutback. They played more slow instead of being more aggressive and overpursuing."

A week earlier, Peterson and quarterback Christian Ponder worked perfectly in tandem to upset the Packers 37-34 at the Metrodome and make the playoffs.

But Ponder's absence because of right-elbow and triceps injuries enabled the Packers to ignore the passing game and focus entirely on the running of Peterson and backup quarterback Joe Webb, who hadn't thrown a pass all season.

Peterson and Webb combined for 53 yards rushing on the first eight snaps of the game. But the ninth snap was a 2-yard loss by Peterson, followed by a Webb incompletion and a field goal.

"We needed seven there," fullback Jerome Felton said. "When we got three there, it seemed to throw off our rhythm. And we started going three-and-out, which gave the Packers the energy they needed to stop the run."

Peterson's first five carries averaged 6.6 yards, which was in the ballpark of the 7.4 he averaged while rushing for 409 yards in the teams' first two meetings. But the man who rushed for 2,097 yards and came within 8 yards of Eric Dickerson's single-season NFL record couldn't sustain that pace.

And that left one of the frontrunners for league MVP feeling nothing but empty on Saturday night.

"People can say he had a great season, but ultimately I didn't accomplish my ultimate goal, which was to help my team get to the championship game and win it; me leading my team to it," Peterson said. "With that being left behind, that void is still there. It doesn't matter how many yards you rush for, how many records you break, if you're sitting at home, it's all for nothing. Yeah, it was good. But we're out of it now. That's all that matters."

Antoine Winfield, the Vikings' 14-year veteran cornerback, said Peterson needn't beat himself up.

"I don't think anybody really knows just how unbelievable Adrian's season really was," Winfield said. "They will one day. But to come back from major knee surgery, rush for 2,000 yards and carry your team into the playoffs? And now he's saying he thinks he can get 2,500 yards? How could you bet against this guy, ever?"

As he spoke in the losing locker room, Peterson seemed to be turning his attention to 2013.

"We'll come back swinging during the offseason and do the necessary things needed to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said. "I love the chemistry we have here, and I feel we can build on this, get better and come back and go all the way."

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