One belief during the Vikings' disastrous start is that much of the blame lies with Donovan McNabb. The feeling has been that the Vikings would have won at least one or two of those games had the team simply given the ball to Adrian Peterson more often. While there may well be some validity to that assertion, the numbers simply don't back it up. To date, A.D. not only hasn't been All Day, he hasn't been All Afternoon.
At the quarter poll of the 2011 season, Peterson has struggled in the second half as badly as everyone else and the numbers don't support the belief that more is better.
Through four games, Peterson has 81 carries – slightly more than 20 a game. However, the returns have diminished as the game has gone on. Like the Vikings in general, Peterson has played his best in the first half. Of his 81 carries, he has 28 of those in the first quarter. He has gained 144 yards on those carries – an average of 5.1 yards. He has been even better in the second quarter, rushing 19 times for 110 yards (a 5.8-yard average). In the first half of the four games, he has averaged 5.4 yards per rushing attempt, picking up 254 yards on 47 carries. But, like the Vikings as a whole, his production has dropped sharply in the second half.
In the third quarter of games this season, he has rushed 15 times for just 53 yards – an average of 3.5 yards per carry. The numbers in the fourth quarter have been even worse. He has 19 attempts for just 54 yards, a dismal 2.8-yard average. Add them together and, in the second half of the first four games, A.D. has rushed 34 times for just 107 yards – an average of 3.1 yards a carry.
Peterson's big-play production has been nonexistent late in games, as well. Of his 81 carries, nine of them have gone for 10 yards or more. None of them have been in the second half. Of his 34 second-half carries, his longest rush has been nine yards and he has just six carries of five yards or more.
It isn't to say that Peterson has been a failure this season. A breakdown of his attempts shows that he has been consistently productive. Nine of his attempts have been for minus yardage, which is too high and speaks more to the penetration being allowed by the offensive line. Of the other 72 rushing attempts, 18 have gained 0-1 yards, 13 have gained 2-3 yards, 20 have gained 4-5 yards, 10 have gained 6-7 yards, two have picked up 8-9 yards, six have gone for 10-15 yards, one has been for 16-20 yards and two have been longer than 20 yards (one of 46 yards and another of 43 yards).
On their face, those numbers aren't all that dissimilar to what Peterson has done for much of his career. He has always been a home-run hitter, but, more times than not, teams have eight players in the box to stop him. As such, he has far more carries that gain little or nothing than he has big plays.
If the Vikings are going to pull out their current tailspin, it will likely have to be on the back of Peterson, whether McNabb remains the starting quarterback or the duties are shifted to rookie Christian Ponder. However, unless the Vikings (including Peterson) don't perform better in the second half, it won't matter who they have at quarterback.
The numbers for Peterson have been pretty frightening in terms of the production drop as the game has progressed – 5.1, 5.8, 3.5 and 2.8 yards per quarter. While the blame can't fully be dumped onto Peterson, his lack of explosive plays in the second half may be as much a reason that the Vikings have struggled so badly in the second half.
In reviewing the numbers, it hasn't been that Peterson hasn't seen his chances of rushing opportunities in the second half – his weekly second-half rushing totals have been seven, 10, five and 12. It's that he has been unable to break any of them for the type of big carries that get the Vikings on the scoreboard. Of his 34 second-half carries, not only hasn't he had a single rush of 10 yards or more, 16 of them (almost half) have gained three yards or less and 11 of them (almost one third) have gained one yard or less.
There's no debating that Peterson is one of the top running backs in the NFL. But the numbers would indicate that his rushing average is as much to blame for the Vikings' offensive woes as McNabb, an inconsistent offensive line and receivers that have found it difficult to break free and get open quickly in the passing game.
Peterson will likely get his big carries that will get Vikings fans off the ledge, but winning and losing happens as a team and, to date, Peterson's second-half production has been part of the problem, not part of the cure.
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.
A.D.'s production part of second-half problem
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