If Adrian Peterson keeps up his current pace he will finish the season with around 1,540 rushing yards and win his third career NFL rushing title. The Vikings running back will have a great chance to add to his totals when he faces one of his favorite opponents Sunday in the Chicago Bears.
The staff at Winter Park couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome when they decided to restructure Peterson’s contract over the offseason to give him $20 million in guaranteed money after he missed all but one game in 2014 because of his legal troubles in Texas.
There were questions of whether Peterson would be ready to play, but he has shown he remains one of the best running backs of all time.
“As far as my game, I see myself evolving each week, just becoming a better player and becoming more solid in what [offensive coordinator Norv] Turner asks us to do with this offense,” said Peterson, who rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries at Arizona on Dec. 10.
Peterson never has been a huge contributor in the passing game, but this season he is on pace to have 254 receiving yards, his highest total since 2010. He has caught 28 passes on 33 targets for 206 yards this season. In 2010, he caught 36 passes on 50 targets for 341 yards.
Peterson credits Turner’s system for getting him into a lot of different parts of the game plan.
“[The system is] a lot different, a lot more diverse,” Peterson said. “They ask a lot from every position. It was something that I was looking forward to when we hired Coach Turner.
“You know, I feel like I’m the type of player that can play any type of offense, if that calls for adjusting, then that’s what I do.”
Great success against Chicago
Chicago has the 26th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL, giving up 125.7 yards per game, but the No. 2 passing defense. Obviously, the Bears will focus on trying to stop Peterson.
“That’s just kind of part of the game,” he said about being the defense’s focal point. “You’re always going to have that eight- or nine-man front the majority of the time, but that’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time.”
In 13 games vs. Chicago, Peterson has averaged 115.3 rushing yards, rushing for 100 yards or more eight times, including his past five games. He also has two games with more than 200 yards rushing against the Bears. In Week 8, he ran 20 times for 103 yards at Soldier Field.
Yes, it has been a big rebound year for Peterson, who by the end of the season could rank No. 16 in all-time NFL rushing yards. He is 254 yards behind Fred Taylor’s 11,695 yards, a total the former Jaguars star built over 153 regular-season games. Peterson has played 117 games.
“It means a lot, it’s humbling, a blessing,” he said. “It just goes to show that when you put in the hard work and determination all things are possible.”
Still, while Peterson is breaking records, he is excited about the future of his team. “With all of the talent we have and how young we are, this is probably definitely the best team [I’ve been on],” he said.
Patterson returns to form
Vikings return man Cordarrelle Patterson has started to return kicks like he did during his rookie season, when the 2013 first-round draftpick was a first-team All-Pro as a special teams player.
With three games to go in the season, Patterson already has topped his kickoff return total from 2014. He has 30 returns for 933 yards in 13 games this year, compared with 34 returns for 871 yards last season. His 31.1 yards per return is the highest in the NFL.
Patterson also led the league in returns per kick his rookie year with 32.4 and had two TDs that season, a total that he has matched this year.
Reeves excited for opportunity
H-backs and tight ends coach Rob Reeves will be doing the play-calling for the Gophers against Central Michigan at the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit. He said his experience calling the offensive plays for Northern Illinois in their 40-17 victory over Fresno State in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl will help.
“It’s exciting, we have a great group, it will be a group effort and we’ll all game-plan this thing together and work it together on gameday,” he said. “It’s no different than when we went to the bowl game with Northern Illinois out in Boise and played Fresno State. It was a great group effort, and we’ll do the same thing.”
Does he see the team changing much offensively? “I don’t think we’ll change much,” Reeves said. “You can’t change too much at this time of the year. We’ll attack Central Michigan and find their weaknesses, if there are any, and just go about doing what we do offensively.”
If Reeves has success against Central Michigan, maybe he could be the Gophers offensive coordinator in 2016.
• If Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen plays Sunday, he will be playing through a serious shoulder injury that certainly will handicap his tackling. In addition, safety defensive tackle Linval Joseph remains slowed by a foot injury and also is questionable, and then both safety Harrison Smith (left knee and hamstring) and linebacker Anthony Barr (groin and hand) were ruled out Friday. Those names take a lot out of the effectiveness of the defense and give the Bears a chance to score an upset. Speaking of the line, the Vikings are a 5½-point favorite. According to Jimmy Shapiro of Las Vegas, the Vikings have won their past 13 games when they are favored over NFC North foes.
• Entering the 2015-16 season there have been 32 players in NBA history who averaged at least 15.0 points in their age 19 or 20 seasons, with the most recent example being Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins last season. The only team to have two players accomplish that feat in the same season was Oklahoma City in 2008-09 with Kevin Durant (25.3 ppg) and Russell Westbrook (15.3 ppg). But the Wolves have two players in Wiggins (21.3 ppg) and Karl-Anthony Towns (15.4), and another just below the mark in Zach LaVine (14.8).
• With 30 points in a 117-107 victory at Santa Cruz on Saturday night, Wolves point guard Tyus Jones has averaged 24.7 points, 5.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in six games for Idaho of the NBA Development League. The Apple Valley product shot 48.7 percent from the floor and 42.6 percent from three-point range, and he attempted 7.8 three-pointers per game.
• Also playing in the D-League is former Gophers center Ralph Sampson III, who is averaging 2.6 points per game in limited minutes for Maine.