The Vikings have become something of a throwback in the NFL. At a time when passing numbers are going off the charts, the Vikings are one of the few teams that runs for nearly as many yards as they do throwing the ball.
Adrian Peterson is one of the reasons for the Vikings' ground game dominance and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and head coach Leslie Frazier have a game plan in place that has used the running game to create big plays. Over the last two months, it has become contagious and Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton said the Vikings are brimming with confidence that they can dominate opponents on the ground.
"We know every time we put in our run game Coach Musgrave is going to put is in a good situation to succeed," Felton said. "We're always confident in our run game. We don't shy away from it and we know that's the type of team we are. I think Coach Frazier built the team like that and we're confident in it. So yeah, we still think the run is prevalent in this league."
Felton believes that, in an always-evolving NFL, the running game may become a bigger part of the offense. Prior to a recent game, TV analyst and former NFL fullback Darryl Johnston and Felton discussed the return of the running game. Johnston knows from where he speaks. When the turnover from run-based offenses to pass-based attacks began, Johnston was the lead blocker for Emmitt Smith and they won three titles with philosophy.
"It's coming back, man. It's coming back," Felton said. "I was talking to Moose Johnston a few weeks ago when they were doing our game and I was saying, ‘Man, keep pumping up the fullback. We've got to bring it back.' It's a cyclical league, so I think it will come back. I think the run game is important. I think everybody knows that and you always hear about it, you always hear people say it. You look at the teams that just pass the ball, outside of maybe the Patriots this year, they struggle sometimes. So I feel good about how we're built and I feel good about the running game."
The Vikings have pinned much of their playoff hopes on the legs of Peterson, who spent the last month of the season chasing down the all-time record set in 1984 by Eric Dickerson. Much of A.P.'s success came with Felton leading the way through the hole. His late-season surge came up just 9 yards short of Dickerson's record of 2,105 yards, but Felton believes bigger things are yet to come.
A free agent at the end of the year, Felton has made it clear he wants to return and that Peterson was the primary reason he signed a one-year deal in Minnesota – a year that ended with Felton being named to his first Pro Bowl. Peterson may have fallen less than the yards needed for a first down from the all-time record, but Felton is convinced that the chase is still on and, when all is said and done, Peterson will end up with the record.
"I think he's got it," Felton said. "I told him after the (season finale vs. Green Bay), ‘Man, if I'm back here, we're getting that record next year.' So, obviously we knew the most important thing was making the playoffs, but we feel like we'll get that record next year."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.