Yotter: Vikings finally return to stars

Adrian Peterson wasn't the only Vikings star with a surprising workload. The team found a simple formula: Go to your most talented stars in the receiving game most often and the offense starts rolling. The stats show just how much Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph were part of that.

With the big question about Adrian Peterson answered, the Minnesota Vikings had several other inquires to answer on offense in Sunday's season opener. But, just as they did with Peterson, the coaching found a simple solution with other offensive questions: use the stars.

There was little doubt Peterson was going to play, but the amount of carries he got – rushing 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns – may have been a shock to some. He ended up playing in 54 percent of the team's offensive snaps. Those numbers weren't a surprise to his teammates.

"If anyone thought Adrian was going to sit on the bench (Sunday), I don't think you're a big-time football fan," defensive end Brian Robison said.

Or maybe just believing the organization would take it easy on a player who was only 8½ months removed from surgery to repair/replace his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. But the Vikings didn't take the conservative route with Peterson, and they didn't do it with their two biggest offensive weapons in the passing game, either – receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Harvin played in 80 percent of the team's offensive snaps, a big improvement from last year, when he played in 58.4 percent of the offensive snaps. Even more amazing was that Rudolph played every offensive snap for the Vikings Sunday, even lining up as a lead blocker several times. That more than doubled the 46 percent of times he played in the offense last year.

On Sunday, the Vikings did exactly what they should – use their biggest playmakers like they didn't always do last year.

It took a while for the Vikings offense to get going, but once Christian Ponder started targeting Harvin with regularity, that's when the ball started moving. Harvin didn't have a catch until the fourth drive, which not so coincidentally was also the Vikings' first touchdown drive.

"Defensive coordinators were coming up to me at the Combine and even the Senior Bowl and just telling me how difficult a matchup he would provide for teams," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "As I heard that, I made a note to myself, I have to find a way to keep him on the field more and that's what we've been trying to do. He works so hard at times that you want to take him off the field and let him get his breath and play, but we're finding ways to keep him on the field because it changes how defensive coordinators call games when he is on the field."

After picking up only two first downs in their first four drives, the hurry-up offense and a heavy dose of Harvin was what the Vikings needed. Trailing 9-0 and getting the ball with 2:28 to play in the first half, Ponder started with a screen to Harvin that gained 17 yards and followed it up with two more passes to Harvin for a combined 16 yards. Three plays, all to Harvin, and the Vikings had moved the ball 32 yards, setting up Peterson's first touchdown.

As it turned out, the Peterson-Harvin one-two punch would prove to be a winning combination on the team's first drive coming out of the half, too. Peterson started with a 19-yard run and Harvin followed with a 19-yard reception. All it took then was two more Peterson runs and the Vikings had their first lead of the game at 14-9.

It seems so simple to use the best athletes most often, but Harvin, despite playing all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2011, wasn't on the field enough. Despite playing in less than 60 percent of the snaps last year, he was still one of only three receivers in the NFL to have multiple games with 10 or more catches.

"I don't know if there's another guy who can line up in all of the places that he lines up and make the plays that he makes," Frazier said. "He puts a lot of pressure on defenses."

Sunday, he was split out in formations, in the slot and in the backfield. He was targeted a team-high eight times and caught a team-high six passes for 84 yards, the same amount of yards Peterson had rushing. And Harvin added 20 more yards on the ground.

"That's what I'm here to do. My job is to move around the slot and receiver, things like that. Like I said before, anything this team needs me to do, I'll do."

Rudolph was targeted seven times and caught five passes for 67 yards, including an important 29-yard, over-the-shoulder catch on third down that set up a fourth-quarter field goal.

About the only criticism of the play-calling came at the end of that drive when the Vikings had the ball with first-and-goal on the 3-yard line and didn't give Peterson a chance for a third touchdown. Instead, it was a 1-yard loss for Harvin, a 2-yard pass to third-string back Matt Asiata and an incomplete pass to tight end John Carlson, the only pass intended for the Vikings' $25 million free-agent man in Sunday's game.

Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu played decent complementary roles, with three catches apiece, including Aromashodu's all-important 26-yarder in the closing seconds of regulation to set up Blair Walsh's 55-yard, game-tying kick with no time left. But without Jerome Simpson, the Vikings' biggest playmakers were exactly who they should have been … even if it took the 2011 season of learning to make it happen.


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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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"With the big question about Adrian Peterson answered, the Minnesota Vikings had several other inquires to answer on offense in Sunday's season opener. But, just as they did with Peterson, the coaching found a simple solution with other offensive questions: use the stars. There was little doubt Peterson was going to play, but the amount of carries he got – rushing 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns – may have been a shock to some. He ended up playing in 54 percent of the team's offensive snaps. Those numbers weren't a surprise to his teammates. \"If anyone thought Adrian was going to sit on the bench (Sunday), I don't think you're a big-time football fan,\" defensive end Brian Robison said. Or maybe just believing the organization would take it easy on a player who was only 8½ months removed from surgery to repair/replace his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. But the Vikings didn't take the conservative route with Peterson, and they didn't do it with their two biggest offensive weapons in the passing game, either – receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Harvin played in 80 percent of the team's offensive snaps, a big improvement from last year, when he played in 58.4 percent of the offensive snaps. Even more amazing was that Rudolph played every offensive snap for the Vikings Sunday, even lining up as a lead blocker several times. That more than doubled the 46 percent of times he played in the offense last year. On Sunday, the Vikings did exactly what they should – use their biggest playmakers like they didn't always do last year. It took a while for the Vikings offense to get going, but once Christian Ponder started targeting Harvin with regularity, that's when the ball started moving. Harvin didn't have a catch until the fourth drive, which not so coincidentally was also the Vikings' first touchdown drive. \"Defensive coordinators were coming up to me at the Combine and even the Senior Bowl and just telling me how difficult a matchup he would provide for teams,\" Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. \"As I heard that, I made a note to myself, I have to find a way to keep him on the field more and that's what we've been trying to do. He works so hard at times that you want to take him off the field and let him get his breath and play, but we're finding ways to keep him on the field because it changes how defensive coordinators call games when he is on the field.\" After picking up only two first downs in their first four drives, the hurry-up offense and a heavy dose of Harvin was what the Vikings needed. Trailing 9-0 and getting the ball with 2:28 to play in the first half, Ponder started with a screen to Harvin that gained 17 yards and followed it up with two more passes to Harvin for a combined 16 yards. Three plays, all to Harvin, and the Vikings had moved the ball 32 yards, setting up Peterson's first touchdown. As it turned out, the Peterson-Harvin one-two punch would prove to be a winning combination on the team's first drive coming out of the half, too. Peterson started with a 19-yard run and Harvin followed with a 19-yard reception. All it took then was two more Peterson runs and the Vikings had their first lead of the game at 14-9. It seems so simple to use the best athletes most often, but Harvin, despite playing all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2011, wasn't on the field enough. Despite playing in less than 60 percent of the snaps last year, he was still one of only three receivers in the NFL to have multiple games with 10 or more catches. \"I don't know if there's another guy who can line up in all of the places that he lines up and make the plays that he makes,\" Frazier said. \"He puts a lot of pressure on defenses.\" Sunday, he was split out in formations, in the slot and in the backfield. He was targeted a team-high eight times and caught a team-high six passes for 84 yards, the same amount of yards Peterson had rushing. And Harvin added 20 more yards on the ground. \"That's what I'm here to do. My job is to move around the slot and receiver, things like that. Like I said before, anything this team needs me to do, I'll do.\" Rudolph was targeted seven times and caught five passes for 67 yards, including an important 29-yard, over-the-shoulder catch on third down that set up a fourth-quarter field goal. About the only criticism of the play-calling came at the end of that drive when the Vikings had the ball with first-and-goal on the 3-yard line and didn't give Peterson a chance for a third touchdown. Instead, it was a 1-yard loss for Harvin, a 2-yard pass to third-string back Matt Asiata and an incomplete pass to tight end John Carlson, the only pass intended for the Vikings' $25 million free-agent man in Sunday's game. Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu played decent complementary roles, with three catches apiece, including Aromashodu's all-important 26-yarder in the closing seconds of regulation to set up Blair Walsh's 55-yard, game-tying kick with no time left. But without Jerome Simpson, the Vikings' biggest playmakers were exactly who they should have been … even if it took the 2011 season of learning to make it happen. 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