Adrian Peterson was in his early 20s when he and Brett Favre were heading into the playoffs together six years ago.
“I think back on it now and I really didn’t want to ask him too many questions and bother him too much,” the Vikings running back said. “But I hate it looking back. I wish I had taken advantage of [his playoff knowledge] and asked him more questions.”
Peterson thinks about that now as his role has reversed. Now, it’s Peterson who is the older veteran, the future Pro Football Hall of Famer, the guy who’s better equipped to manage his heart rate heading into Sunday’s NFC wild-card game against Seattle at TCF Bank Stadium. Meanwhile, it’s the quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, who is in his early 20s and feeling his way around — and sometimes into — the NFL pitfalls.
Last week was one of those pitfalls that swallowed Bridgewater. Lambeau Field. Prime time. NFC North title on the line. Add them together, mix in a 23-year-old quarterback — even one as naturally poised as Bridgewater — and, well, let’s just say the Vikings were fortunate that the defense had Bridgewater’s back.
Ten completions, 99 yards, a lefthanded interception for a righthanded quarterback and a 45.7 passer rating doesn’t quite spell out big-stage-ready for Teddy.
Bridgewater is the youngest starting quarterback in the playoffs by two years over Cincinnati’s temporary starter AJ McCarron, and by three years over Carolina’s Cam Newton among regular starters. He also is one of three starting quarterbacks making their playoff debuts this year.
But, like coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Peterson seems to genuinely trust the kid. And that’s saying something because Adrian isn’t believable on the rare occasions that he even attempts insincere praise.
When it comes to quarterbacks he has played with, Peterson’s adoration of Favre leaps out of him. Meanwhile, his confidence in Christian Ponder always seemed best defined by what was left unsaid back then or what is said often about Bridgewater now.
Thursday, Peterson was asked if this year’s team is more comparable to the 2009 playoff team or the 2012 playoff team. Even though this team’s youth and inexperience aligns with 2012 — when Ponder started 16 games before an injury kept him out of the playoff loss at Green Bay — Peterson chose 2009 and mentioned quarterback first when he elaborated.
“Of course, Teddy is not a Hall of Fame quarterback,” Peterson said. “But he’s definitely getting the job done. Each week, he continues to get better.”
That wasn’t the case last week, but Peterson isn’t concerned. He has spent extra time talking to Bridgewater this week. Wednesday, he told him to approach the game like it’s his to win.
“In my mind, I feel it’s my game to win or lose,” Peterson said. “I told Teddy the same thing. I said, ‘In your mind, you need to be thinking you’re going to win this game for us.’ ”
Peterson also had an interesting take on that ill-advised lefthanded interception at Lambeau on Sunday.
“Like I told Teddy [Wednesday] when I talked to him, I said, ‘That wasn’t a good play at all,’ ” Peterson said. “But I said, ‘You know what, when I look at that play, you know what I see? I see a guy who is being pulled down. Of course, you’ve got to be smarter.’ But I also said, ‘You’re not even a lefthanded quarterback. You had the ball in your left hand, and you tried to throw the ball. I will go down with anybody like that. A guy who is going to compete that hard and try to create something. Give me that guy.’ ”
That’s probably not what Zimmer or Turner said. But Peterson also stressed a think-before-you-throw message going forward in the playoffs.
“Of course, I did go back to, ‘You have to be smarter, especially in big games like that,’ ” Peterson said. “He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I understand that.’ But I also said, ‘Teddy, that’s what I love about you.’
“I think he’ll be OK. I’m going to make sure I stay on him. I’ll be able to look in his eyes and see where he’s at. But I feel like he’s going to do a good job [Sunday].”