Atlanta - 

On Sunday, Adrian Peterson rushed 29 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns.

Jerick McKinnon was even more efficient, carrying five times for 33 yards.

Matt Asiata carried once for three yards.

That's 35 carries for 194 yards and two scores, against what was at the time the top-ranked run defense in the NFL. The trio also caught five passes for 46 yards.

Most impressive, those statistics indicate what the eyes tell us. Eleven games into the season, the Vikings' backs are running as hard as they have all season.

Peterson has been breaking long runs all year. Where he has improved is in powerfully finishing the average run. Whereas early in the season he was willing to risk losing two yards in an attempt to make a big play, now he's pressing the hole harder, driving more, finishing runs with more force.

As a rookie, McKinnon at times looked tentative or cautious. He looks even better than Peterson when running out of shotgun formations, using his quickness to hti the hole immediately. He's also finishing with emphasis.

And Asiata has always run hard.

Peterson is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, McKinnon 4.6 and Asiata 4.2.

While it always seems strange to see Peterson on the sideline with the game in doubt, I think the Vikings' coaches have done well in getting him plenty of work without wearing him out. His freshness is evidenced by the way he ran on Sunday.

Peterson is their best back in traditional sets. McKinnon is their best back running out of the shotgun. Asiata is their best pass-blocking back and most sure-handed pass-catcher out of the backfield.

This is an ideal threesome.


New at is my conversation with Justin Morneau. He's having his annual Casino Night to benefit childhood arthritis 6-11 p.m. on Saturday at International Market Square.

Also at is my latest conversation with Roy Smalley, in which Smalley tells me about he and his wife spending their honeymoon with Paul and Linda McCartney.