Adrian Peterson wasn’t his usual self versus Niners

With a performance to forget in Week 1, the Vikings RB's career may on the decline.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Adrian Peterson wasn’t his usual self versus Niners


In Week 1, we saw plenty of players return after missing time last year, including: Eagles QB Sam Bradford, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer, 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman, Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney, and Chiefs S Eric Berry. Each of them produced flashes of the player they once were, giving reason to believe they can have a bright 2015 season.

One player who returned after missing nearly all of 2014—and had a game to forget—was Vikings RB Adrian Peterson.

Peterson was limited to just 10 carries, due in part to the Vikings being down late in the game. However, when the game was closer, he had just four first-half carries. Half of his attempts were for 1 yard or less, and he failed to have a double-digit yard carry. Peterson made just one player miss a tackle, and earned only a single first down.

Needless to say, the performance was nowhere near the Adrian Peterson of our memories.

Another surprising aspect of Peterson’s performance was the running back’s limited playing time. He played in just 64.3 percent of the game; in past recent seasons, he was averaging between 70–75 percent of snaps. In previous years, the Vikings rotated Peterson out on some third downs, or in general, to give him a rest. Last night, however, Minnesota rotated their running backs by drive.

It wasn’t surprising to see RB Jerick McKinnon own two drives after he averaged 4.8 yards per carry last year; it was surprising, though, to see Matt Asiata get two drives after he averaged just 3.5 yards per a season ago. Because the rotation was by drive and not situational, it won’t be surprising if Peterson continues to see his playing time limited.

Peterson’s decline in play isn’t too surprising; it began in 2013. From 2010 to 2012, he had 36 games with an above average run grade, compared to just six with a below average run grade. From 2013 to 2014, Peterson only had seven with an above average grade, and eight with a below average one. He averaged 3.0 yards after contact or better in each year from 2009 to 2012, but is now running on eight straight games below that mark, and three straight appearances averaging 1.6 yards after contact per carry or lower.

Declining playing time and production are a signs that Peterson’s best days are behind him. We still might see flashes of his former highlight-reel self when facing weaker defenses, but I don’t think it’s likely he returns to the top tier of running backs in 2015.

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • enai D

    Can’t draw any conclusions about Peterson himself, the run blocking was absolutely non-existent and he only got 10 carries. Nothing Peterson could have done about that.

    • Wyzel

      OMG his career is over, he had a bad game. This article is ESPN worthy, I expect better. This is better than his first game in SF 14 carries 3 yards, hes never had any luck against SF. Didnt help they kept doing with those stupid read option esque draws, that a 4 year could see. I also saw him catch a pass than drag a couple dudes for a first down. You guys are great at grading, but these filler articles are bad.

      • enai D

        Agreed, 10/10

  • walker8084

    Asiata’s drives were situational. They were late in 4th quarter when Vikes had to pass. They put in the their best pass blocking/ receiving combo RB.

  • Anthony Szeto

    think the defense has alot to do with AP not running. lol

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  • crosseyedlemon

    It takes more than talent to be the best. You also have to have heart and while AP still has the talent it’s obvious he isn’t happy with the lack of support the Vikes front office gave him while suspended. If the Vikings season goes badly Peterson will be the fall guy unfortunately. AP needs to get to a team he can believe in and then he will be the beast he was before.

  • Nick

    AP has been bad against the 49ers defense in the past. His average against the 49ers is about half his career average, and the 3 ypc he had in this game is right at his average against the 49ers over 4 gamess

  • Taylor Christian Vance

    I sure hope he isn’t declining. He so much fun to watch.

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  • Mike Kano

    Peterson’s best season was 2012, when he was 27. That is not surprising, given that 27 is statistically the peak performance for running backs in the NFL.

    His 2013 season resulted in 1266 yards, which would be considered a good season for a lot of running backs, but is far from stellar.

    In 2014, Peterson ran for 75 yards, because he is dumb as a rock and doesn’t know that beating a 4 year old child is wrong. Extrapolated out to 16 games, he was on pace to run for 1200 yards, another good season for an average NFL running back. Of course, making the assumption that Peterson could stay healthy for 16 games is quite generous, given that he has become increasingly injury prone.

    After one game in the 2015 season, he is averaging 3.1 yards a carry with no TDs.

    He is now 30 years old, increasingly injury prone, and suffering from declining performance. These are all the hallmarks of an NFL running back hitting the dreaded wall that marks the end of their career.

    He is still a below average receiver as a running back, and when he actually picks up a blitz (instead of whiffing on it) it is worthy of a comment as opposed to something which is expected. Having him in on most third downs is detrimental to the team.

    Everyone should expect Peterson to be platooned with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. Limiting Peterson’s touches was a stated goal of Viking Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner during the off season, After week one, we now know exactly what he meant.

    I have seen every NFL game in which Peterson has played (I have seen every Vikings game since 1982), and a sprinkling of his college games at Oklahoma. He is a shell of the player he used to be. The only reason people still care about Peterson is because of the well deserved notoriety he earned earlier in his career. Why else would anyone care about a platooned running back averaging 3.1 yards a carry?

    • cka2nd

      “His 2013 season resulted in 1266 yards, which would be considered a good
      season for a lot of running backs, but is far from stellar.”

      That is a preposterous statement. Over 14 games, Peterson averaged 90.5 yards per game and 4.5 yards per rush in 2014. In ANY era of pro football, 90 yards a game at 4.5 yards a pop constitutes an excellent season. are /run averageDepending on the yards per rush, an average of 79 yards a game – 948 yards in a 12-game season (just short of the then-magical 1,000 yards number), 1,106 in a 14-game season, and 1,262 yards over 16 games – would make for a great season for an average NFL running back (starters and back-ups included, Chester Taylor being perhaps a good example) an excellent season for an average NFL starting running back (Rashard Mendenhall, maybe), a very good season for an above-average starter (Matt Forte) and a good season for an elite running back, unless you are willing to make yet another assumption that Peterson was going to average only 3.6 yards per carry for all of 2014.

      “The only reason people still care about Peterson is because of the well deserved notoriety he earned earlier in his career.”

      He rushed for over 2,000 yards in his sixth season. That is hardly the early part of his career.

  • cka2nd

    Peterson is a notoriously slow starter, including in 2012, so I am not entering panic mode just yet.