It had been a long time waiting for Adrian Peterson to make his way back onto the field after suffering a devastating knee injury. Although many believed Peterson would make it back to play Sunday against the odds, as the team was being introduced and Peterson received a thunderous ovation, he got a little emotional knowing that his long, arduous journey had come to an end.
"I think coming out of the tunnel (was the most emotional time)," Peterson said. "That tunnel vision I had, it was there. It presented itself to me right there that I've been having since the surgery. That was probably the most emotional part, but then at the end (of the game) too, those guys getting in the end zone with 20 seconds left. I'm sure everybody thought the game was over."
The plan was to get Peterson between 10-15 touches and the Vikings exceeded that. Peterson was on the field for 32 plays and touched the ball 18 times – 17 rushes for 84 yards and one reception for three yards. The plan was to spread out his exposure and the team managed his playing time pretty well.
In the first quarter, he was in on just the first three plays, due more to Jacksonville running a nine-minute, 17-play scoring drive than anything else. He had just one carry for four yards, but things would change significantly as the game went along.
"Adrian couldn't wait to get back to the huddle to get the ball again," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "I was joking around with him before the game. We had that tight end screen called on the first play and I told him, ‘Adrian, you're going to have to let those nerves wait until the second series. I'm going to try to score.' He was like, ‘Go for it. I'll meet you down there.' He was so excited all week in practice. You could tell. He was like a horse in the starting gate ready to just take off and he did."
In the second quarter, Peterson was in on nine plays – rushing six times for 19 yards and scoring the Vikings' only touchdown of the half. While he didn't break off any long runs, it was clear Peterson was running with a purpose and looked a lot like he did pre-injury.
In the third quarter, he was on the field for just four plays, but made the most of them – rushing three times for 25 yards, including a 19-yard scamper and his second touchdown of the game.
In the fourth quarter, he was in the game for eight plays, rushing four times for 10 yards, but it was overtime when he shined the brightest. He was on the field for the first six plays – the longest stretch of the game for consecutive plays – and ran three times for 26 yards and caught a pass for three more. His 20-yard burst up the right sideline had head coach Leslie Frazier marveling at his recuperative power.
"I told him afterward, ‘I'm not sure you weren't just faking that ACL,'" Frazier said. "He looked pretty good to me. I'm just extremely proud of Adrian and the effort that he gave us, the boost that he gave us. Our fans reaction when he was introduced, it was outstanding and lifted our players. He's special, without question."
Peterson defied the odd to not only return, but look like the same player who has dazzled and dominated the NFL for five years and, from the sound of things, he wasn't satisfied with the number of touches he got.
"I wanted more," Peterson said. "Do I think I'm ready? Yeah. I'm feeling good right now. My legs are loose. Seriously, I'm feeling really good. I'm ready to carry the load."
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.
Adrian Peterson: Breaking down his return
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