Last week's game vs. the Lions was not an easy win. While clearly the better team on the field, Minnesota had some struggles trying to get Adrian Peterson in the end zone. AP finished with 29 carries, a whole boat load more than the ten he had in the opening loss to the 49ers. But there were numerous fumbles, and an almost inexplicable inability to score a goal line touchdown.
This week the (1-1) Minnesota Vikings host the (1-1) San Diego Chargers. It is the first of three consecutive games against the AFC West, which includes a visit next week to Mile High Stadium in Denver.
It has been four years since Minnesota played San Diego. That game ended in a 24-17 loss, despite having a ten point lead at the half. Of course, the most memorable of all eleven games these two franchises have played was the 2007 game at the Metrodome where a then rookie Peterson ran for 296 yards, of which most were in the second half. Minnesota won that game 35-17.
Interesting to note, the teams have traded wins throughout their history, with neither team winning more than one consecutive game. And since the last game was a victory for the Chargers, it is an established pattern that Minnesota will even the series once again. Presently, Minnesota trails 6-5 overall.
With the victor established, it is time to unwrap why and how we will win.
Phillip Rivers has completed over 80% of his passes on the season, including twenty in a row in his opening game against the same Lions so recently defeated at TCF Bank. However, against the Bengals, Rivers and the San Diego offense sputtered some.
Meanwhile, the defense was unable to stop running back Giovani Bernard, who came in for starting back Jeremy Hill after two fumbles. The two combined for 180 total yards, including 162 on the ground. Bernard had a great game against a Charger defense that missed a lot of tackles.
And now we come to week three.
The average purple fan had to see how upset AP became after repeated fumbles and a Lions defense stiffening near their end zone last week. After such a dismal opening week, fans were treated to a blast from the past on the opening series. Peterson continued to run hard, and if not for the fumbles, would have given a better performance in the backfield than we have seen in a long time. Since back when AP was running rampant every week.
It has obviously been a stressful time for both Peterson and the organization since those days where we counted on AP every Sunday. Last Sunday's game was a little nostalgia for everyone.
Now, with the Chargers looking vulnerable to the run, and Peterson starting to rev his engine, it appears a 'perfect storm' for Peterson to run wild again. When that occurs, Teddy Bridgewater is free to move the team down the field under less duress. This Sunday versus the Chargers he has to be careful of both cornerback Jason Verrett and free safety Eric Weddle. Strong safety Jimmy Wilson is improving rapidly. LOLB Melvin Ingram can be dangerous, though he was absent last week according to some media. Already Ingram has two interceptions on the year, but is known more for his pass rushing skills.
All the more reason to run. Charger fans are unhappy with inside linebacker Manti Te'o and his missed tackles. Still, his 15 tackles on the season are 2nd on the team, and as many as the Vikings' leading tackler, Harrison Smith. Weddle leads the team with 19, Wilson has 12.
Minnesota will look to establish the run early in the game. AP wants touchdowns. Expect the Vikings offense to do just enough in the air to keep San Diego safeties backpedaling. Peterson will bring the crowd to an early fever with a long run.
Hopefully, Minnesota's defense will contain Rivers some. Rookie Melvin Gordon leads a rushing attack that includes the versatile Danny Woodhead. Together, the two have averaged 109 yards per game on the ground. Expect them to have some success.
A solid ground game is the best defense against a good offense. The Chargers are averaging near 420 yards per game. If Peterson is successful, the clock winds down and Rivers will sit on his bench talking to receivers Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd, instead of throwing completed passes to them.
For this reason 300 yards has a chance.
Peterson is presently averaging 82.5 yards per game. He has stated in the recent past that he would like to obtain the record for most yards gained in a season. Running for 300 yards on Sunday would say that loud and clear.
If the offensive line can do enough to get AP through holes on a consistent basis, we might see Peterson do something special on Sunday.
My prediction: a Vikings win combined with a record-setting day for Adrian Peterson.
I just hope it has nothing to do with fumbles.