Peterson a silver lining in gloomy offense

Adrian Peterson has been a more consistent running so far this year. The statistics and quotes back up that assessment, and history says he could be in for another strong performance Sunday.

Brett Favre is coming under fire from both Vikings and NFL fans. Four interceptions, one fumble that resulted in the opponent's game-deciding touchdown and only one touchdown pass in two games will do that.

So far in 2010, Favre has a 56.1 passer rating, which would easily be the lowest of his career (his previous season low was 72.2 in 1993) if it continues.

That's quite a contrast from how the 2009 season was viewed in total. Favre had a career-best 107.2 rating and was considered a savior for the Vikings offense.

Vikings fans also remember how Adrian Peterson was often considered the goat of the season, as his seven fumbles – six of them lost – were a point of frustration and contributed to losses. This year, he appears more conscious of how he carries the ball and hasn't fumbled through two games.

"Can he go through the whole NFL season (without a fumble)? That's certainly the goal. We'd be tickled to death if that happened," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He's very mindful of that and he is doing a good job of still being a violent runner. You haven't seen him change his style appreciably. Does he still swing the ball on occasion? He does. But he's mindful about when he's getting in crowds of protecting the investment."

Beyond the ball security issues, Peterson appears to be finding his running lanes better and becoming a more adept running back.

"The offensive line, they're doing a good job getting movement," Peterson said. "The big difference is really what I've brought to the table, as far as accepting that challenge of being patient and letting those guys really work for me. That's what I've been doing different and I've seen that we're more productive in the run game."

That patience appears to making Peterson more consistently productive. Last year, Football Outsiders had the Vikings ranked 31st in the league in the percentage of running plays (23 percent) that were stuffed for no yards or negative yards. The Dolphins ranked first in that category last year with only 14 percent of their running plays being "stuffed."

Through two games this year, the Vikings have nearly equaled Miami's league-leading percentage from 2009. Minnesota is getting stuffed for zero or negative yardage on 15 percent of its running plays, which ranks ninth through two weeks.

Childress said he has seen Peterson's patience behind the line of scrimmage.

"I saw a couple pretty good examples of that (against Miami). I saw one in particular that he could have been more patient on. That's always at work when you have great tools like that," Childress said. "You know that offensive line and running back needs to work hand in glove, whether you're taking the ball up to their feet every time. A lot of times things are going to flash for him and he's going to try to take that, but he needs to be mindful of what those guys' responsibilities are in front of him."

Childress later declined to pinpoint the one running play where Peterson could have been more patient, but a good guess would have been a critical fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line that was stuffed for no gain.

Peterson admitted that he probably could have stretched that play more to the outside, where it was designed, before looking for a lane to cut into the end zone. The Vikings ended up running Peterson six straight times – accounting for every play – on that drive that ended on the 1-yard line with 2:16 to play, but Brett Favre had no problem calling Peterson's number repeatedly.

"I know if I was on the other team, and there is a time in my career when I was, I would probably be hoping that you would not hand it to Adrian four times in a row and take a chance and do something else," Favre said. "I feel like he (Adrian) is thought of as one of, if not the best, running backs in football."

Overall, Peterson was pleased with his rushing performance, which gained 145 yards on 28 carries, the most rushing attempts for him in a game since 2008.

"I feel like we had a pretty successful day running the ball. It could have been a lot better," he said. "There's a lot I could have done different that could have put us in some better positions, but I feel like we established the run game and we got something going. It was a little more balanced. It's all about getting that pass game and that run game on the same page."

He could be poised for another good game. In his last five meetings with the Detroit Lions, Peterson has averaged 111.4 yards per game and has five touchdowns. Ironically, he has the exact same average in his last 16 divisional games and has 20 touchdowns over that stretch of games, scoring a touchdown in seven straight NFC North games.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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