Why Adrian Peterson is carrying the Vikings’ offense—again

Despite having one of the better quarterbacks of his career under center, Sam Monson explains why Adrian Peterson is again carrying the Vikings' offense.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Why Adrian Peterson is carrying the Vikings’ offense—again

Adrian Peterson—at 30 years old—is the NFL’s leading rusher, and a big reason why the Minnesota Vikings are now 8-3 atop the NFC North.

Peterson put up 158 rushing yards on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 12, and earned his best rushing grade of the season, breaking nine tackles along the way. This was vintage Adrian Peterson, made all the more impressive by the fact that it came against the league’s leading run-defense heading into the game.

Peterson did enough damage to drop them all the way to ninth in the NFL for the season, but more importantly, was again the difference between winning and losing for the Vikings, who were once more anemic with the ball in the air. Teddy Bridgewater passed for just 16 more yards than Peterson rushed for, and Peterson outdid him two scores to none.

Overall, the Vikings will head into the game with Seattle next week with the league’s 31st ranked passing offense and the first ranked rushing offense. Peterson has shown he can still perform at his best levels (after a relatively slow start in our grading system, he now owns our fifth-highest rushing grade this season) but hasn’t done so consistently over the season, even if the production has been reasonably constant.

Minnesota’s offensive line has been an adventure this season, with pretty much everybody other than Joe Berger at center (a backup heading into this season) having major ups and downs over the season. Matt Kalil had his best game of the season against Atlanta, but it was coming off his worst—a game against Green Bay in which he was beaten for a sack, four hurries, and was penalized three times.

The story is the same all across the line, and it seems to have affected both the run and passing games over the year, but Peterson has been able to overcome the issues more than Bridgewater and the passing attack has, and take advantage of the line’s improved play in games where it comes.

Right now, this is a flawed Minnesota Vikings team, and despite Teddy Bridgewater looking like the quarterback Peterson has rarely had in his career, the team is once again leaning on their workhorse back to carry them where they need to go

Unless Norv Turner can make some adjustments within the offense to make Bridgewater’s job easier—given the offensive line and receivers he has been playing with—then this season is likely the same old story for Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. They will be one of the league’s best rushing teams, and this time they have a pretty formidable defense, but the passing game may not be able to hold up its end of the bargain.

Peterson now has 1,164 yards, and is on pace for 1,693 for the season, with 11 or 12 touchdowns to go with it. That would almost identically match the 1,697-yard, 12-touchdown performance that Curtis Martin achieved in 2004, which is the best season a running back has achieved over the age of 30. He would need to up his production even more to match the 1,860 yards that Tiki Barber produced at age 30, just one year after that in 2005.

Either way, Peterson looks to be as productive as ever, and as important as he has ever been for the Vikings’ playoff prospects. For the team, and not for the first time, they need to make him a less important part of the picture if they are to achieve the success they want.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • Pete


  • crosseyedlemon

    Norv Turner’s idea of a coaching adjustment is to send the kicker to the Gatoraid stand to take a leak. Coaching rule #1 should be “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” – the Vikes should just let AP do his thing.

  • Justin Fuchs

    So why go away from Peterson when he’s firing on all cylinders? Stupid analysis.

  • RayINLv

    Some of the people commenting want Frazier and Musgrave back. Then we can get Ponder too?

    This team is again fun to watch. To be where we are from where we were in 2013 is a great story line. No doubt, more to be done, but to expect we’d go from last place to first place in 2 years is 2 much.

    I guess we could be more like the ‘hawks – big offense and still not the same record.

    • William Holz

      No way we give up Turner, and Musgrave might be good at QB mentoring and great at designing plays but he’s AWFUL at situational play calling. He’s a classic example of an otherwise talented person being promoted into uselessness.

      • RayINLv

        @williamholz:disqus: Sarcasm is sweet.

        • William Holz

          There have actually been some pro-Musgrave folks popping up on some forums back when he had a smidge of luck and they’ve generally been anti-Turner folks who flipped out when they didn’t like a playcall.

          In some cases sarcasm is accidentally not sarcasm. 😉

          • RayINLv

            But really, that’s what make sarcasm sweet. (I do understand your point, in case you need me to say that.)

  • Nicholas Rogers

    I think people who write analysies like this do not actually watch Vikings games. They simply read the box score, see Peterson highlights and write a column.

  • Wyzel

    Didnt the seahawks ride their defense, lynch, and having russell do just enough to back to back super bowl appearances? 8-0 when peterson gets his carries 0-3 when hes sub 20, yeah lets change that.