DENVER – After running through the Lions in Week 3, Adrian Peterson credited “opening my lungs’’ for his improved performance.
Sunday, he learned that open holes are even more important.
The Vikings running back describes his carry-by-carry successes as “famine, famine, feast,’’ meaning he’ll have to accept two short gains before breaking away.
Against an excellent Broncos defense, Peterson went on a crash diet for three quarters. He finished with 16 rushes for 81 yards and a touchdown, the score and 48 of those yards coming on one play, a fourth-and-1 burst up the middle on which he ran untouched.
What did he see on that play?
“The end zone,’’ he said with a smile. “It parted like the Red Sea.’’
Because of that brief feast, Peterson finished with more than respectable stats — 81 yards, a 5.1 average, a touchdown and four catches for 13 yards.
He dwelled on a negative. With the Vikings at midfield and driving for what could have been a game-tying field goal in the last minute, Peterson failed to block blitzing safety T.J. Ward.
Ward stripped the ball from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Von Miller recovered, and the Vikings’ day of impressive comebacks was over. Denver won 23-20 and Peterson blamed himself.
“It’s definitely frustrating, especially when the last play was my fault,’’ he said. “They did a great job of disguising and bringing Ward off the edge. He kind of hesitated and hid behind 54 [Brandon Marshall]. 54 was jumping around, and I released, he shot, and made the play.
“That’s one that I will definitely learn from. Personally, I look at that and put it on me. It doesn’t matter what happened throughout the game. We were in that moment and I have to come through and make that block for Teddy.’’
Peterson views himself as one of the greatest athletes of all time. When asked about Miller, the Broncos’ great pass rusher, he smiled.
“He’s a great athlete and a force to be reckoned with,’’ Peterson said. “I enjoyed playing against him. I really didn’t have too many encounters with him, but that might be good for both of us.
“It was a fun game. Anytime you’re playing a defense where you have Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, those guys up front, Aqib Talib on the outside — they’ve got a good defense. I look forward to playing teams like that. I just have the utmost respect for them. I have to salute those guys. They did a good job today.’’
Peterson has a reputation himself: As one of the great running backs in NFL history, and a poor pass blocker. His touchdown reinforced the former, and his missed block on Ward reinforced the latter.
“I was on the sideline thinking that our guys just have to adjust to the speed they present,’’ Peterson said. “Once we did, we were able to make some big plays.
“We just didn’t close. They made the last, good play.’’
Peterson enters the Vikings’ bye week on pace for 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season. If he remained on this pace, that would represent his third-largest rushing total of his career and his highest touchdown total since 2012.
“We still have room to grow,’’ he said. “I love the way guys fought, being down 10 twice and guys continued to fight on defense, making big plays. And on offense, knowing, ‘Hey, it’s do or die,’ and being able to come through and put points on the board.
“There’s a lot to look back on, but I think we’re going to be OK.’’