Adrian Peterson sometimes looks like he is carrying the Minnesota Vikings offense, but in front of him oftentimes is a fullback pushing away the opposing defense.
The combination of Peterson and a lead blocker has never been more successful than it has this year, and the signature game for that statement came Sunday at Lambeau Field. On all of Peterson's most explosive runs, fullback Jerome Felton was leading the way throwing critical blocks.
He was there for Peterson's career-long 82-yard touchdown. He was there for Peterson's 48-yarder, his 23-yarder and even a 9-yard run – all four of those registering in the Vikings' top 10 gains against the Green Bay Packers.
Peterson, easily the league's leading rusher with 1,446 yards, reiterated just last week that he prefers to run alone, but it's no coincidence that what is shaping up to be his best season yet comes with an experienced fullback in front of him.
"My preference is to be back there by myself," Peterson said Thursday. "But we've had some good plays with the fullback in there, whether it's pushing him to the safety and clearing him through, but I'm comfortable either way."
Last week, ESPN Stats and Information revealed just how much more effective Peterson is with a fullback, pointing out that he was averaging 7.2 yards a carry this season with a lead blocker but only 3.3 with no lead blocker. That average only increased Sunday, with more than 160 of Peterson's 210 yards coming with Felton in front of him.
Peterson's signature run was his 82-yard jaunt that featured power and speed. It started with Felton in front of him, with the fullback getting just enough of linebacker A.J. Hawk for Peterson to start to the turn the corner with the aid of a kick-out block of CB Tramon Williams by Matt Kalil. From there, it was vintage Peterson, with him breaking tackle attempts by Williams, Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings before outracing the pursuit in his career-long run.
The next-longest gain by the Vikings was also from Peterson, a 48-yarder in which Felton blocked Hawk in front of Peterson, who broke a tackle attempt by LB Brad Jones before racing down the left sideline.
On a 23-yard run late in the third quarter, Felton led Peterson into the hole off left tackle and threw a block on Jones, who then took A.J. Hawk out of the play as Peterson cut toward the left sideline before lowering a shoulder on Burnett to end the play.
On a 9-yard run toward the beginning of the second quarter, Felton absolutely blew Hawk off the ball, pushing him backwards 6 yards before decleating him to the ground.
"I knew how critical this game was, and I just want to come out and put it on the line, and I can say that we did that," Peterson said after the 23-14 loss. "Our guys came out and played with passion. We just have to eliminate the turnovers and the penalties, and take advantage of the opportunities we had."
It was only the third time since 2000 that a team has had a 200-yard rusher and lost the game, but that wasn't on Peterson … or Felton. Peterson has had 17 rushes of 20 yards or more – six more than anyone else in the NFL – and 16 of them have come in a two-back set.
The Vikings spent free-agent money on some players who haven't given them much of a return on investment this year – TE John Carlson with a five-year, $25 million contract and Jerome Simpson with a one-year $2 million contract – but Jerome Felton and his $750,000 investment have helped put Peterson on pace for his best season yet.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Felton in front critical to A.P.'s success
Packer Report Top Stories
Hundley, Janis, Burnett Return for PackersBrett Hundley is pleased with his progress, even while twice missing time with an injured ankle.
Packer Report4:49 PM
Cobb Primed for Powerful Bounce-Back SeasonRandall Cobb is healthy. And stronger. Those two things should help him rebound after a disappointing 2015.
Packer Report2:25 PM
Masthay Wins Punting BattleThe two practices last week and their performance vs. San Francisco cemented the outcome.
Packer Report9:31 AM
Podcast: Biggest Surprises of CampIn our daily podcast, it's the latest on Jordy Nelson and the biggest surprises of training camp with just two practices remaining.
Packer Report6:47 AM