While it was fashionable to be in “sky is falling” mode after Peterson had just 10 tentative carries for 31 yards in last week’s brutal opener, Peterson had a few historical statistical advantages going for him this week as opposed to last week.
It’s hard to say if any of these factors — let’s just call them old friends — had anything to do with his 134-yard performance Sunday, but they are at least interesting to note:
*Last week’s game was on the road; this week’s game was at home. In his career, Peterson came in averaging 23 rushing yards per game more at home (109) than on the road (86). Clearly there is a comfort level for many players at home, and Peterson appears to be no different.
*Peterson is averaging just 51.3 yards per game in four career games against San Francisco. Conversely, Peterson has always done well against NFC North opponents, and the Lions are no exception. In 12 career games against Detroit before today, Peterson was averaging 104.8 rushing yards per game, 5.4 yards per carry and 11 total rushing touchdowns. The Vikings were 8-4 in those games and are now 9-4 (remember, he missed both Detroit games last season, and the Lions won both).
*Last week’s game was on Monday Night Football. While this doesn’t seem to make sense because Peterson has never been one to shy away from attention, historically he has struggled in Monday night games. In 10 career MNF appearances, he’s averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and 58.6 yards per game. The Vikings are 3-7 in those games. On Sundays, when Peterson has played the vast majority of his games, he’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 102.2 yards per game.
Whether all of that is happenstance or explanation is debatable, but there was no doubt that Peterson looked more comfortable at home on Sunday against the Lions than he did on the road on Monday against the 49ers.
Unfortunately for Peterson and the Vikings, the news wasn’t perfect. Peterson fumbled on two of his 29 official carries, and a third fumble in the end zone that might have been a game-turning play was negated by an off-sides penalty.
It was a regression for Peterson, who fumbled 20 times in his first three seasons in the league (during which he had 915 carries) but who entering today had only fumbled 11 times since then (spanning 1,149 carries).