ATLANTA – If you want to know why agent Ben Dogra wasn’t able to bait Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman into trading Adrian Peterson this past offseason, go watch Sunday’s 20-10 win over the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
With Peterson at his powerful best, even the league’s No. 1-ranked run defense was no match. Despite a dogged devotion to eight-, nine- and the occasional 10-man fronts, Atlanta still got trampled by a season-high 191 yards on 39 carries (4.9). Peterson, who didn’t have a carry without at least eight defenders in the box or lurking nearby, slammed away 29 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
“I see why these guys are No. 1 in rushing defense,” Peterson said. “Our guys up front took it personally and my fullback [Zach Line], he took it personal. We wanted to come out and establish the run because we felt that gave us the best chance of winning.”
Fittingly, Peterson’s final carry blew the game wide open and what was left of Atlanta’s run defense to smithereens. Facing a nine-man front, Peterson went 35 yards off left tackle on a play called “80 Truck.” The Vikings led 20-3, and Peterson called it a day.
Peterson also had a busy day climbing the NFL’s career rushing list. With 11,354 yards, he moved past O.J. Simpson, Corey Dillon and John Riggins into 18th place. He needs 35 yards to move past Steven Jackson.
“We knew when he’s at his best, the cutbacks happen,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “I think that’s part of what happened on the touchdown. It was going to be hard-fought, exactly like we thought. Good running team and we do a good job against the run.”
No running back had run for more than 87 yards on Quinn’s defense. Only three teams had topped 100 yards this season, led by the 49ers (133).
The Falcons came in averaging only 87.4 rushing yards allowed per game. On the first snap of the game, Peterson went 11 yards against an eight-man front. Not bad for a guy who had only 45 yards on 13 carries in a loss to the Packers the week before.
Peterson lost yardage only one time (minus-1) and was stopped for no gain only three other times. There also was a time he had 10 yards against a nine-man front and 17 yards against a nine-man front on third-and-1.
The Vikings also used the stacked defensive fronts to move the ball with short passes. On the Vikings’ second possession of the game, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed five of seven passes for 67 yards with first-down throws to four different players. Peterson caught an 18-yarder and dropped what could have been a touchdown reception before scoring his first rushing touchdown.
“We knew how aggressive this defense was up front,” Peterson said. “Teddy did a great job of finding the backs to give us some space out on the perimeter to make plays there as well.”
All of that was possible because the Falcons were fixated on stopping Peterson.
“This guy is a threat every time he has the football,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “And we are glad he is ours.”