A.D. struggling despite deficient defenses

Adrian Peterson is struggling by his standards, so what is going wrong? Leslie Frazier has his ideas, but so far the statistics show that most of Peterson's struggles have come against the bottom half of the league's run defenses. That will change over the final 10 games.

Largely lost amid the Josh Freeman performance on Monday Night Football was the fact that running back Adrian Peterson wasn't used that often and wasn't very effective when he was used.

Despite head coach Leslie Frazier saying he believed the New York Giants had a "stout" run defense, the statistics say otherwise. The Giants entered the game with the NFL's 26th-ranked run defense, giving up 126 yards rushing per game.

"We wanted to run it now. We were trying to run it," Frazier said Tuesday. "We probably could have been more balanced than we were."

Frazier said the Vikings wanted to be more balanced and said part of the reason they weren't is because they were throwing a lot of passes at the end of each of the halves.

Still, they passed the ball more than three times as much as they ran, despite the repeated declaration that they are a run-first team.

Peterson ran the ball only 13 times for 28 yards. Freeman threw 53 passes, completing only 20 of them for 190 yards.

"Got to get our run game on track. Disappointing that we weren't more effective running the football," Frazier said. "There were some things that we definitely have to be able to do better. It puts too much pressure on our passing game when we don't run the football better.

"Our offensive line will have to play better. Our tight ends will have to block better. Our backs will have to block better. And we'll have to do a better job coming up with ways to create situations for our run game from a coaching standpoint to make us more effective, and part of that will be what we do in the passing game, to help us be more effective."

In six games, Peterson has 511 yards and is averaging only 85.2 yards per contest, putting him on pace for 1,363 yards this season. Last year, he ran for 2,097 yards, second-most in NFL history, but he also had a slow start then.

Through six games in 2012, Peterson had just 499 yards.

The problem is that only two of Peterson's six games this year have come against run defenses currently ranked in the top half of the league. While the Carolina Panthers are ranked fourth against the run and the Cleveland Browns are tied for ninth, he has also faced the Pittsburgh Steelers (19th), New York Giants (21st), Detroit Lions (23rd) and Chicago Bears (25th).

"We have to get our offensive line to get more push up front and we always talk to Adrian about being true to his reads and take the holes where they are and not feel like he has to hit a home run on every play. We always talk about that," Frazier said. "There were moments, not necessarily yesterday, but this season, where he felt like he needed to break every run. I think we're cleaner in that area now, but we need to get our offensive line, tight ends and other backs to knock people off the ball and push back some."

Frazier said the hamstring injury that had Peterson limited for two of three practices last week and kept him out of the third practice "didn't really come up" during the Giants game.

"The bottom line, we couldn't get on track. When we did try to run, we were zero gain, two gain, two yards, minus yards," Frazier said. "I think our longest may have been an 8-yard run. We just couldn't get it going and we end up throwing the ball probably more than we would like, for sure more than we would like."

Interestingly, the offensive line hasn't changed from Peterson's franchise-record-setting season last year. All five starters are back and have played all but one snap – right guard Brandon Fusco left for one play Monday night with an injury and then returned.

"It's pretty much the same people. We're running a lot of the same plays, but we're not as effective as we were a year ago to this point. We have to do some things to help ourselves in the passing game that'll help a little bit, back people up some," Frazier said.

He said they have the right players to get it fixed, but admitted that they are "running out of games" to get it turned around when it still matters.

So what needs to happen to accomplish that? Frazier indicated that an improved passing game, especially in the play-action and bootleg portion of the play sheet, will help. That could create better one-on-one matchups for the receivers. If they can hit those, as the theory goes, defenses might have to respect the passing game and back away from the line of scrimmage.

"As good as we were running the football a year ago, when we really hit our stride in that month of December, we were hitting some of those boots, some of those one-on-one comebacks outside," Frazier said. "We had some things that kind of made people have to respect our pass game, to a degree. It didn't really change what they did completely, but it made them respect our passing game a little."

The mantra hasn't changed: "We do want to be an offense that relies on Adrian Peterson," Frazier said.

To date, however, their desire isn't matching up with their execution and their play-calling. And it won't get any easier.

While only two of their first six games have come against teams with run defenses ranked in the top half of the league, they will be facing run defenses ranked 16th or better in seven of their last 10 games.

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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