When games get tough, Vikings go with A.P.

Leslie Frazier saw something in the Cardinals run defense that he wanted to exploit and he turned to Adrian Peterson to do that. It's become a focus of the Vikings this year: When they need a win most, they turn to a heavier workload for Peterson and he responds.

There was speculation prior to the Vikings-Cardinals game last Sunday that, given the quick turnover the Vikings were going to have between their games with Arizona Sunday and Tampa Bay Thursday, the Vikings might consider limiting the exposure Adrian Peterson would have in the running game. In the previous two games, Peterson had combined for 34 carries – well below his career average and about five carries less than he averaged in the first four games of the season.

The rationale made some sense. Peterson has struggled on Mondays with ankle pain and, while it wasn't thought the Vikings would limit him completely, it was believed he may be dialed back somewhat to try to keep him fresh for two games in five days.

That didn't happen. Instead, Peterson had his most prolific rushing day in almost a year (two days short of a year to be exact, when he ran 24 times for 175 yards on Oct. 23, 2011 against the Packers), as he carried 23 times for 153 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings' 21-14 win over the Cardinals.

Not only did the Vikings win to improve to 5-2, but A.P. felt as good on Monday as he has since suffering his ankle injury in Week 5 against Tennessee.

"Thank God I woke up (Monday) feeling a lot better than I did the last two weeks. I'm just going to do the necessary things I need to do to make sure I'm ready to play Thursday – getting treatment, cold tub, just taking care of my body (and getting) rest."

What smacked in the face of conventional wisdom was that, in film study of the Cardinals, it was determined by head coach Leslie Frazier and his staff that, if the Vikings were to beat the 4-2 Cardinals, it would require a steady dose of Peterson. In the games that most people deemed the Vikings' most difficult ones to win prior to Sunday (Week 3 against San Francisco and Week 4 at Detroit) Peterson had more than 20 carries. The Vikings won both of those games and the plan was to give the Cardinals defense a steady diet of Peterson Sunday.

"I talked to him about the fact that this was a game I thought we'd really need him to carry us because of some of the things they did on defense," Frazier said. "I asked him did he think he would be up to it, knowing that he missed Wednesday's practice and he missed Thursday's practice. I wanted to hear him talk and get a feel for his mindset because I really believed we were going to need him to have a big game for us. He said, ‘Coach, I'm ready if you feel like that's what you need me to do – to give me more carries, whatever, I'm ready. I'll be ready.'"

Peterson confirmed that he was all-in with the plan, saying that he was ready to cut loose even if it meant that he might have another long Monday in front of him.

"That was part of the game plan coming in – to really establish the run game and make sure we stayed true to it," Peterson said. "It played out that way. We were able to establish the offensive line up front – those guys played awesome – we were able to pound them and really take advantage of them in the run game."

Peterson's contribution was critical to the Vikings' win on a day when quarterback Christian Ponder had his worst passing day of the season by far. Peterson said what struck him the most about his conversation with Frazier was that, after treating him with kid gloves through training camp and the preseason that Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave had devised a game plan that centered on him – a challenge he was more than willing to accept.

"Just having that confidence – he raised the questions. He asked and I said, ‘Yeah, I'll be ready to roll,'" Peterson said. "I thought I had more carries than 23, it kind of felt like it. It was good that we were able to come out there and execute."

While Peterson has met every goal he has put in front of himself since having knee reconstruction last December, the one thing that had been missing was the trademark Peterson burst when he got through the line untouched and galloped downfield. That was back Sunday as he gained yardage in significant chunks and looked like the player Vikings fans have become accustomed to seeing.

"(He performed) to the point where you didn't feel like there was more that could be given," Frazier said. "From everything I saw on Sunday reminded me of the Adrian we are so familiar with seeing over the course of his career – the burst, the explosiveness, the quickness, running through tackles. I know it's just a matter of time before that 60-yard run comes. He's very close for that to happen. He's doing everything that you would hope he could do. The way he's catching the ball, he's catching the ball so much better than he has in the past. He's working. I think he's improving. And as the season goes on he's getting stronger. It's a good challenge. It's a short week for him. This is uncharted territory. We'll have to get through this and hopefully he'll be able to manage whatever needs to be managed and have a great game on Thursday night."

As always, Peterson was asked how he feels health-wise with his healing knee and, as always, he gave same answer – admitting that he is looking forward to the day where the questions about his knee stop, much in the same way questions about migraines are rarely, if ever, asked of Percy Harvin anymore.

"I feel myself getting stronger each week," Peterson said. "I get asked that question every week. It continues to get stronger and I'll tell you when I feel like I'm at that mark I envision myself being."

With the win against the Cardinals on the back of Peterson, the Vikings are sitting at 5-2 and looking to improve to 6-2 Thursday night against Tampa Bay. It was clear that Peterson's confidence is back and the team is competing at a high level. But, asked if he thought the Vikings would be 5-2 at this point, he said he didn't – but not for the reason that most might think.

"I would have thought we would be undefeated, to be honest," Peterson said. "No joke. It is what it is. We're just going to take it quarterly, one week at a time and just continue to try to knock these (wins) out, just put our best foot forward each weekend. Outside, let them say what they have to say. It's all about what we're doing in here, what we're believing and what we're going to do as a team to reach that goal. That's been our focus and we're going to continue on that path."


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.



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Instead, Peterson had his most prolific rushing day in almost a year (two days short of a year to be exact, when he ran 24 times for 175 yards on Oct. 23, 2011 against the Packers), as he carried 23 times for 153 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings' 21-14 win over the Cardinals. Not only did the Vikings win to improve to 5-2, but A.P. felt as good on Monday as he has since suffering his ankle injury in Week 5 against Tennessee. \"Thank God I woke up (Monday) feeling a lot better than I did the last two weeks. I'm just going to do the necessary things I need to do to make sure I'm ready to play Thursday – getting treatment, cold tub, just taking care of my body (and getting) rest.\" What smacked in the face of conventional wisdom was that, in film study of the Cardinals, it was determined by head coach Leslie Frazier and his staff that, if the Vikings were to beat the 4-2 Cardinals, it would require a steady dose of Peterson. In the games that most people deemed the Vikings' most difficult ones to win prior to Sunday (Week 3 against San Francisco and Week 4 at Detroit) Peterson had more than 20 carries. The Vikings won both of those games and the plan was to give the Cardinals defense a steady diet of Peterson Sunday. \"I talked to him about the fact that this was a game I thought we'd really need him to carry us because of some of the things they did on defense,\" Frazier said. \"I asked him did he think he would be up to it, knowing that he missed Wednesday's practice and he missed Thursday's practice. I wanted to hear him talk and get a feel for his mindset because I really believed we were going to need him to have a big game for us. He said, ‘Coach, I'm ready if you feel like that's what you need me to do – to give me more carries, whatever, I'm ready. I'll be ready.'\" Peterson confirmed that he was all-in with the plan, saying that he was ready to cut loose even if it meant that he might have another long Monday in front of him. \"That was part of the game plan coming in – to really establish the run game and make sure we stayed true to it,\" Peterson said. \"It played out that way. We were able to establish the offensive line up front – those guys played awesome – we were able to pound them and really take advantage of them in the run game.\" Peterson's contribution was critical to the Vikings' win on a day when quarterback Christian Ponder had his worst passing day of the season by far. Peterson said what struck him the most about his conversation with Frazier was that, after treating him with kid gloves through training camp and the preseason that Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave had devised a game plan that centered on him – a challenge he was more than willing to accept. \"Just having that confidence – he raised the questions. He asked and I said, ‘Yeah, I'll be ready to roll,'\" Peterson said. \"I thought I had more carries than 23, it kind of felt like it. It was good that we were able to come out there and execute.\" While Peterson has met every goal he has put in front of himself since having knee reconstruction last December, the one thing that had been missing was the trademark Peterson burst when he got through the line untouched and galloped downfield. That was back Sunday as he gained yardage in significant chunks and looked like the player Vikings fans have become accustomed to seeing. \"(He performed) to the point where you didn't feel like there was more that could be given,\" Frazier said. \"From everything I saw on Sunday reminded me of the Adrian we are so familiar with seeing over the course of his career – the burst, the explosiveness, the quickness, running through tackles. I know it's just a matter of time before that 60-yard run comes. He's very close for that to happen. He's doing everything that you would hope he could do. The way he's catching the ball, he's catching the ball so much better than he has in the past. He's working. I think he's improving. And as the season goes on he's getting stronger. It's a good challenge. It's a short week for him. This is uncharted territory. 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But, asked if he thought the Vikings would be 5-2 at this point, he said he didn't – but not for the reason that most might think. \"I would have thought we would be undefeated, to be honest,\" Peterson said. \"No joke. It is what it is. We're just going to take it quarterly, one week at a time and just continue to try to knock these (wins) out, just put our best foot forward each weekend. Outside, let them say what they have to say. It's all about what we're doing in here, what we're believing and what we're going to do as a team to reach that goal. 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