The Vikings didn't win Sunday, which has become a disturbing trend that has snowballed as the 2013 season has progressed, but if there was a positive to take from the loss to Dallas, it was that Adrian Peterson was back to being the focal point of the offense.
After having just 10, 13 and 13 carries in the previous three games, Peterson had 14 carries in the first half alone Sunday, finishing with 25 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown.
As Peterson sees it, running the ball has been the identity of the Vikings offense since he arrived in Minnesota in 2007 and it was refreshing for him to get back to the bread and butter of the Vikings offense – running the ball and getting Peterson his 20-25 touches.
"It felt good to establish the run game," Peterson said. "It helped with the pass (game) as well. We didn't get the W, so I feel like I didn't do enough. That's the way that I'm always looking at things. I feel like I'm the quarterback when there are tough losses like that. We just need to continue to stick to the run and I need to do more to help prepare my team to win."
The carousel of quarterbacks that have come in and out of the Vikings lineup this season has resulted in a lot of mistimed passes and seeming miscommunication between the Vikings QBs and their receivers. That lack of continuity has put more pressure on Peterson to step up and be an offensive leader – a role he has taken more seriously, and more vocally – over the last few weeks.
"That is something I've taken on for several years now," Peterson said. "We have a lot of great leaders on this team – offensive and defensively, guys who have got a lot of years behind them. It's something I like and try to lead by example, being out there and being vocal. Here recently I've been a little more vocal and the guys have been responding well."
The primary source of frustration for Peterson has been the lack of consistency in the use of the running game. Against teams like the Panthers and Giants, when the Vikings fell behind by significant margins and were forced to abandon the run out of necessity, Peterson understood the lack of carries. But when games were still in question he has a hard time figuring out why the Vikings don't get to their strength more often and try to muscle opponents and wear defenses down with their power running game.
"If we're behind, and we have to pass the ball more, I understand that," Peterson said. "But if that's not the case, we're a running team and we've been a running team since I've been here. Then I'm not the only one sitting there (thinking), ‘What is going on?' I mean the world is – probably the defense that we're going against is – thinking the same thing and they're probably happy we're not running the ball. Even with that, I take it for what it is – go out there and play my game. Whatever the call, just try to block to the best of my ability, or get out on a route and make sure I catch my ball and getting yards after the catch and just play."
The Vikings defense has taken a lot of the heat for allowing three game-winning drives in the final minute of three games this season, but in each of those occasions, the Vikings offense had chances to close out games, which, last year, they did consistently. This year, the Vikings have gone three-and-out and all three of those games, giving the opponent the ball and the opportunity to win – an opportunity Chicago, Cleveland and Dallas all took advantage of.
Peterson said the reason for the consistent failure in the waning minutes is simple.
"Execution," Peterson said. "We watched those plays, those last couple of plays we had, and we had opportunities to keep the chains moving and we just didn't execute. Defensively, watching the film, you sit there and watch it as a group, you're able to break it down and see the execution and we're not in this position."
Peterson was glad to finally get his opportunity to showcase his talents in Dallas Sunday after three frustrating weeks in which he had just 36 carries in three games. He never got a rhythm going and the offense struggled and sputtered as a result.
Asked if he had experienced such a stretch of inactivity during his playing career – pros, college, high school, Pop Warner, etc. – Peterson answered with a resounding "no." He has never had a healthy stretch of three straight games of less than 15 carries each.
"That's the first time EVER that has happened," Peterson said emphatically. "I'm not a selfish player at all. I'm all about getting a W. The only time it hurts is when I understand when the game is out of hand, and we got to switch our game plan up, but when that's not the case is the only time I'm standing there and looking around like, ‘Ok, why aren't we running the ball?' But we got back on track last week, and that's all that matters. It's all about moving forward and getting a W."
If the Vikings hope to turn around their 2013 and find something positive in the second half after a dismal first half of the season, Peterson is ready, willing and able to put the offense on his shoulders – regardless of who the quarterback is. The Vikings are a run-first team and A.D. is ready to go all day if it will help the Vikings find the wins that have eluded the team over their first eight games.
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: ‘We're a running team'
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