Last week, Adrian Peterson's running style was described as "tentative" and "hesitant." That was after a 100-yard rushing day.
One week later, coming up shy of a 100-yard game against the Cleveland Browns, the insinuation remains that something is missing in his game. For some perspective, however, the Minnesota Vikings' star running back has 281 yards, fifth-most in the league, and three rushing touchdowns, tied for most in the league.
"I tried to be a little more patient. Watching film, there was a couple (of runs) that I feel like I left out there still," Peterson said of his 25-carry, 88-yard rushing performance against the Cleveland Browns. "I'm critical of being able take advantage of those opportunities. I felt like I did pretty good, but there's still room to improve."
Taking everything into account, there is reason to question the effectiveness of Peterson. He admitted that defenses aren't approaching him much differently than they did last year, but the 2012 NFL MVP is now tied for 14th among running backs with at least 20 carries with a 4.1-yard average per carry. That's well below his 6.0-yard average last year.
"We've played some pretty good defensive fronts in the first three weeks. They've just been doing a good job of containing the run, not allowing big runs to take place," Peterson said. "We're going to keep grinding. I trust those guys up front. I know things will open up eventually. Last year in the first couple weeks, things didn't really explode like it did later on that season.
"Teams are coming in and focusing on stopping the run and trying to make you and the team offensively one-dimensional. You're going to have some games like that where there's tough sledding. There's not anything that I'm not used to at all. You've just got to stay patient and make every swing count. Eventually, things will start to open up."
Last year, Peterson had 39 rushes of 15 yards or more in 16 games. This year, through three games, he has only two.
Still, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said last week he felt Peterson was trying to break every run for a long touchdown and therefore taking too many losses. Last week, there was some improvement, Frazier said.
"I felt like early on (against the Browns) he was hitting things the way we needed him to. There were some moments where I felt like he began to press a little bit. As a matter of fact, he and I talked about it (Tuesday) night," Frazier said. "He just has to trust that everybody is going to get their jobs done. He doesn't have to score every time he touches the ball and trust that the offensive line is going to be where they should be and the rest of the team will take care of their responsibilities."
Peterson said it's not about his statistics. He's not trying to break a long touchdown run every time for his own benefit. He's trying to help the team.
"I think people kind of get the misperception that I'm trying to do too much. For example, the play against Chicago when I tried reverse field, that's not me being selfish trying to get to the end zone. It's just me playing football," he said, referencing a 13-yard loss against the Bears on Sept. 15. "I've just got to make every swing count, take advantage, and those runs will come."
He should be aided by the return of Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton. After missing the first three games because of a suspension, Felton is expected to return to full-time duty Sunday in London against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Peterson hasn't always enjoyed running behind a fullback, but last year he admitted that some of his best runs came when Felton was his lead blocker.
"Now I can say that there is some type of confidence that I feel just knowing what type of guy he is, knowing his approach and his mentality," Peterson said. "He's a guy I know I can count on."
Maybe that will help Peterson return to form, although he is still off to a better start this year than he was last year through three games after coming off a surgically repaired knee in December 2011.
Through three games last year, he had only 230 yards rushing, more than 50 yards behind his current pace and had slightly lower yards-per-carry average.
So far, the Vikings have the seventh-ranked run defense in the Browns, the eighth-ranked run defense in the Bears and the 15th-ranked run defensive in the Lions. On Sunday, they face the 22nd-ranked Steelers run defense.
With a 0-3 record, Peterson might be trying to do too much, but Frazier said that's not necessary.
"He's a great, great player. We all know that," Frazier said. "But he doesn't have to feel that he has to carry the whole team. Just take care of his responsibility and we'll be fine. We're looking forward to him playing his best game of the season on Sunday."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Is Peterson pressing to do too much?
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