Now you know why the Wilf brothers, Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer were not going to get rid of Adrian Peterson after all his legal troubles of last year.
The running back is back in his old physical form and he rushed for 203 yards in sparking the Vikings to a 30-14 victory at Oakland on Sunday that put them alone in first place in the NFC North.
Furthermore, the Vikings will be favored Sunday at home to beat the Packers, who have lost three in a row and were stunned by the last-place Lions at Lambeau Field for their first home loss since 2013.
Peterson leads the NFL with 961 yards and he tied former Buffalo star O.J. Simpson with his sixth 200-yard game.
The Packers do not look like a team that started the season 6-0. Their previous two losses were on the road at then-unbeaten Denver and still-unbeaten Carolina. But the Packers had won 13 in a row at Green Bay before Sunday, when they lost to a team that has been in total disarray this season.
No doubt the tickets for Sunday’s showdown will be some kind of record for TCF Bank Stadium, with the scalpers having a field day.
Speaking with Peterson last week, he credited the offensive line for his big season but also said he was getting better every week.
“Just going through the games, being out a year, I’ve really been able to see how much that affected me,” said Peterson, who now has rushed for 100 yards or more in three consecutive games.
“Getting that repetition is different, so each week, last week I felt awesome, this week I feel awesome. I just have to take care of my body.”
Peterson also acknowledged last week that missing almost an entire season might have slowed him early on.
“A little bit, it might have,” he said. “When you look at it, it doesn’t look like it did, but I’m able to tell just the progress I’ve made in eight weeks and seeing how from the first week to now, my game has evolved into where I imagined it being.”
After Sunday’s game, he again credited the offensive line, telling reporters in Oakland that the line has been improving as the season advances.
“I’ve seen it in practice. These guys prepare. They just have a fight about them. They don’t win on every play, but one thing I do know is that they’re going to come back the next play and hit you in the mouth,” he said. “So with that, we are kind of tweaking some things and being more patient.”
The Raiders had scored at least 30 points in their previous three games, but what hurt them Sunday against a Vikings team that has not given up more than 23 points in any game this season was the absence of center Rodney Hudson, one of the best in the business. His backup, Tony Bergstrom, was unable to block Linval Joseph all day.
“Well, that guy’s a load for everybody,” Bergstrom told reporters afterward. “He’s been making centers around the league look pretty bad. He’s a good player. He is a load, and you have to give him every bit of credit that you can.”
Another big factor in the victory was the time of possession, with the Vikings holding the ball more than 33 minutes, thanks largely to Peterson. In doing so, they were able to limit Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s time on the field.
Patterson big again
It has been a tough two seasons for Cordarrelle Patterson, so what a relief it must have been for him and the Vikings special teams staff when he took back a kickoff late in the second quarter for a 93-yard touchdown, which gave the team a lot of momentum going into halftime.
You have to go back to Oct. 27, 2013, in Week 8 of Patterson’s rookie year, for the last time he returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Recall also that in 2013, he had 45 receptions for 469 yards and four scores, but since then he has only 35 for 394 yards over the 2014 and ’15 seasons, including just two for 10 yards this season.
While Patterson has acknowledged struggling to find his role with the offense he has always kept things positive, saying earlier this year, “It’s always just a matter of time to when you get your name called. … You have to be ready and go out and give them your all and show what you can do.”
Leidner grows at QB
Over the past four weeks Mitch Leidner has done a great job of keeping the Gophers close in four difficult losses.
Over the four games, Leidner has completed 88 of 144 passes for 1,158 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions while also rushing for three scores. In that span he has become only the second Gophers quarterback in history, joining Mike Hohensee in 1982, to have four consecutive starts with 250 or more passing yards.
Gophers coach Tracy Claeys talked about Leidner’s play in the 40-35 loss to Iowa, which saw the quarterback asked to rush 11 times while also throwing for 259 yards.
“He’s making good decisions and taking care of himself,” Claeys said. “He feels good about what he’s doing. Those guys are catching the balls, and Mitch has a lot of confidence. That’s the one position you need to have it, and I’m very pleased with the way he’s progressed and he’ll continue to get better.”
With 2,167 passing yards, Leidner has broken his previous career high of 1,798 set last season. His 11 touchdown passes also tie his career high from a year ago.
Claeys agreed the Gophers were hurt by their 12 penalties for 87 yards, compared to the four for 50 yards for Iowa.
“We’re not catching a lot of breaks as far as things go, but at the same time we’ll keep working,” he said. “We have to make some things happen ourselves. If we keep playing hard and doing what we need to do, eventually those breaks will come our way. But on the road, you’re battling against a lot of different forces and I thought our kids battled hard, we just came up a little short.”
Claeys said his players weren’t greatly outplayed by the No. 8 team in the country.
“You go on the road and you truly have to play like you’re going to beat them by 14 points, that’s just the way it goes with the crowd and everything,” he said. “I think if we could have gotten control of their running game a little bit in the first half, that really was the difference in the game.”
Certainly one of the most difficult parts for the Gophers this year has been the injury issues. They had only 66 healthy players Saturday, and only four cornerbacks.
“That’s the weird thing about this year where we’ve had injuries where guys have missed multiple games,” Claeys said. “… I looked up during warmups and we have four corners, that’s all we have — you go from two seniors to two freshmen. Safety is not a lot different in the secondary. Again, you play the kids you have that are healthy, and those kids are playing hard and battling and giving us a chance. We just need to make a few more plays.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org