The Vikings head into Sunday with their season on the line. A loss will all but mathematically eliminate them from contention for the NFC North title and the sense of urgency has ratcheted up considerably in the last few days following last Sunday's loss at Chicago.
Adrian Peterson got surrounded by media members Thursday and was asked a series of questions concerning the Vikings' season gone wrong. He said that, despite a start nobody on the team could have envisioned, the players haven't lost hope or focus on trying to turn their dismal 2010 campaign around.
"We still have confidence," Peterson said. "Of course, it hurts when you lose. It kind of works against building confidence. There's no team that we face that we can't get a ‘W' against. It's all about refocusing, getting our preparation right and going out and execute and coming out with that ‘W.'"
Peterson said he has been impressed with the increasing contributions that rookie Toby Gerhart has made. He has been on the field in critical situations in the last three games and, while A.D. is glad to see Gerhart making progress, he never wants to leave the field – much less when winning or losing hangs in the balance.
"Being a tough competitor as I am, it's hard any time I'm on the sideline," Peterson said. "I'm fighting to get out there on kickoff returns sometimes, but that's just my mentality. I don't call any plays. I just go out when my number is called."
Peterson said the mounting frustration for the offense this season has been magnified in the red zone. Last year, the Vikings were at or near the top in red zone production all season. This year they have been near the bottom and about 30 percent of their drives (8 of 29) have come away without any points. Finishing drives was a specialty last year. It's a scarcity this season.
"When you're driving down the field and you get in the red zone in a position to score, and self-inflicted (problems like) penalties that's backing you up and keeping you from putting seven (points) on the board, it's a little more frustrating," Peterson said. "That's the main thing. (Offensive coordinator Darrell) Bevell talked about offense and said, ‘Guys, just remain focused on the Vikings not beating the Vikings.'"
Peterson has quietly put together an excellent season, an accomplishment buried behind the non-stop drama that keeps making news with the Vikings. He hasn't had a single lost fumble this season despite 227 touches (197 rushes, 30 receptions). However, when asked about the media not talking about his penchant for fumbling, Peterson said if he should happen to cough up a couple, the goodwill coming his way could easily revert back to the non-stop criticism he got last year.
"It is what it is," Peterson said. "I really don't expect too much. I know in this business, if it's not one thing, it's another. They're going to pick and find out something. I'm going to continue to carry the ball and not put it on the turf, but, (if it does) go on the turf, I can just imagine what they'll say – ‘Oh, he's back.' They'll flip back (to criticizing him). I really don't get caught up in that."
Peterson said the distractions around the Vikings have gone on throughout the season and he inadvertently became his own chapter in the daytime drama when he was late for a team meeting because he had been pulled over near Winter Park by a police officer who gave him a ticket driving 53 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone.
Peterson became the latest Viking to get splashed onto the headlines, but, what made his different was that he doesn't believe he was going that fast. Considering he was already ticketed last year after being clocked driving more than 100 mph on the always-dangerous Crosstown Highway, he doesn't need another excessive speed violation. It seemed clear that, despite the notoriety the traffic stop generated, he intends to contest the ticket, because, when asked for proof, it wasn't what he expected.
"I am," Peterson said of being surprised. "I saw the (radar reading) and you know what it said? It said 42, because I asked (to see the radar)."
When asked how he could get a ticket going 53 mph, Peterson said, "That's a good question. I would think once you get a 53 (reading), you put your meter down, turn your lights on and come and get me. It is funny that, not even 20 minutes after that, it's in the paper and on the news. I guess it comes with the territory, but it is what it is."
Peterson isn't getting the same sort of notoriety nationally this season, despite having a tremendous statistical season. He enters play Sunday needing 92 rushing yards to top 1,000 for the season (his fourth straight), he is averaging 101 yards a game and is only 12 yards behind Houston's Arian Foster for the league lead in rushing.
He admitted that he would like to win his second rushing title in three years, but said that the team success is more important than individual accomplishments.
"I set my individual goals, but they come behind team goals," Peterson said. "I feel like, if I'm doing my job, all those other goals will fall in place. But, ultimately, I'm all about winning and put ourselves in the playoffs. That's my ultimate goal."
As the Vikings start the stretch run of the season, they stand on the brink of a cliff that they can get pushed into at any time with a loss. The task in front of them is not going to be an easy deficit to overcome, but Peterson said he and his teammates are going to try to rekindle the magic of 2009 and, for that to happen, it needs to begin with a win against the Packers.
"You've got to stay focused on what's at hand," Peterson said. "We still have a long season in front of us. You can't dwell on who you play in three weeks or different things that take you off of your main vision – taking it week by week, win these games and get into the playoffs."
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.
A.D. waxes on rushing title, fumbles, more
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