Adrian Peterson came into training camp making the bold prediction that he would rush for 2,500 yards. Through two weeks, he is third in the NFL with 193 rushing yards. For anyone else, being on pace for 1,600 yards would be an achievement. For Peterson, it's a disappointment.
Unlike last season, when Peterson was so intensely driven in his quest to prove he could come back from career-threatening knee surgery, he believes he can do much better this season because he isn't concerned about his knee. However, he admitted, he was hesitant to pop runs away from the Bears defense last week, instead initiating contact too often. Leslie Frazier referenced that difference after watching game tape and Peterson seconded that motion on Thursday.
"I was able to confirm that I was hesitant on some (runs), even though I didn't realize it when I'm out there playing," Peterson said. "I could see on film that I was trying to do too much instead of taking what the defense gave me. It's something that I have to look at and take something from."
The problem was that Peterson doesn't much care for the Bears. The last time the Vikings had won in Chicago was in Peterson's rookie season when he lit up the Bears for 224 yards on 20 carries and scored three touchdowns, which became an early signature game that got A.D. respected as the best running back in football.
The Vikings haven't won in Chicago since and Peterson got caught up in trying to do a little too much – trying to run over people instead of around them – a dilemma he plans to rectify this week.
"My mindset and my approach was trying to strike those guys instead of running away from color as much as I did," Peterson said. "I will be changing that this week."
The only other time Peterson has played Cleveland he produced one of the most-repeated highlights of his career – taking a carry to the left sideline, throwing a defender out of his way and racing 64 yards for one of his three touchdowns in Brett Favre's Vikings debut.
Where does that play rank in Peterson's mind?
"Top three," Peterson said. "I haven't watched it in a long time, but I've seen it before. I don't think I've looked it up or anything."
He added that the only other moment that really stands out in his mind was last year against Green Bay at the Metrodome. In the previous drive, Peterson had fumbled on a fourth-and-1 carry. He was mad. The next time the Vikings got the ball, he ran eight of the next 10 plays and ripped through Packers defense.
But, as far as individual plays go, his touchdown run against Cleveland is one that he felt not only defined him, but defined the 2009 Vikings team.
"The one from Cleveland definitely sticks in my mind, because just how many people contributed on that play," Peterson said. "I always remember Sidney (Rice) pushing a guy when I shoved that guy out of bounds and I was gearing to get going. A guy was coming up behind me and Sidney ended up blocking him and pushing him out so I could get my gear going and get to the end zone."
The Vikings are a much different team from what they were in 2009. The Browns are a much different team than they were last Sunday, but something that hasn't changed over the last week is that Cleveland has one of the most dominant defenses in the league. The Browns are fourth against the run and have allowed Miami and Baltimore to average just two yards a carry on 59 rushing attempts.
It's going to be a matchup of strength vs. strength and Peterson is ready to make sure that the Vikings come out strong and force the issue with the impressive front seven of the Browns.
"It's something that me and the offensive line definitely take as a challenge," Peterson said. "Those guys are pretty good up front, pretty stout at the first level. They've got some fast guys at the linebacker position. But, this is what we do. We run the ball. We pride ourselves at being able to establish the run game. It's going to be a big challenge for us. I'm excited."
With the Vikings finally making their home debut in Week 3 and their last visit to the Metrodome over the next month, Peterson said the Vikings are ready to take advantage of the home field and register their first win of the 2013 season. The problems with the Vikings run game aren't systematic or due to the lack of talent on the offensive line. He is convinced this will be the week that he and his offensive line get on the same page and get the Vikings in the win column.
"We just need to execute," Peterson said. "It's simple. I feel like we stopped ourselves offensively. That's what did in (the Chicago) game. We just have to make sure we execute and make sure we take advantage of the opportunities."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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