NFL history will remember Adrian Peterson’s last work-related road trip to St. Louis.
Nearing the pace needed to set the all-time single-season rushing record, when the Vikings went to St. Louis Dec. 16, 2012, Peterson was nuts. He ran 24 times for 212 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown and another long run in which he was brought down on the 1-yard line.
It didn’t start that way. The Rams were coming off a 2-14 season so heinous they were scheduled to pick second in the 2013 draft, but they traded the pick to Washington so the Redskins could draft Robert Griffin III and the Rams could harvest an embarrassment of riches.
When the two teams met, the Rams were at 6-6-1 and the Vikings were at 7-6. The odds of St. Louis making the playoffs wasn’t good, but there was a heartbeat and a mathematical chance. They were on life support, but they were alive … and talking some pretty significant smack.
On his first seven carries, Peterson had no yards, and the Rams were letting him know it. Of his seven carries, he had positive rushes of 4 and 6 yards. The other five carries were for a loss of 1 yard, three carries for a 2-yard loss and one for a 3-yard loss. A.P. was getting dominated.
As the game went to the second quarter, Peterson was having one of the worst games of his career and the Rams were getting in his head.
“What I remember about that game is that it was the first time in eight years I’ve ever talked off to players,” Peterson said. “Those guys had me so hot. I haven’t ever been that mad playing football, but those guys were just running to the ball. I love it, too, but they were just yapping at the mouth. I’m talking about from the defensive front to the second level to the secondary.”
The upstart Rams were disrespecting a legend and future Hall of Famer. That didn’t sit well with Peterson. The Rams were telling him he was done after one quarter, not realizing they were going to have to stop him “All Day.”
On his first carry of the second quarter, Peterson snapped off an 82-yard run and the mood changed. You don’t like A.P. when he’s angry and he still has a grudge for those guys who was smack-talking early on.
“Those guys were just yapping and they were doing pretty good initially – getting a couple tackles for loss, a couple of three-and-outs,” Peterson said. “Then when I gunned at them one time, it got real quiet. I’m not going to give you my hint. I hope they come in talking a lot of noise this time, too. I’m excited to play these guys. I love playing against a good defense. I love playing against guys that are aggressive, and know how to play defense. I grew up watching Pittsburgh and the Cowboys when those guys had good defense, guys come in and hit you and run up to the ball. That’s what I’m used to. Every time I play a team like that I’m ever more excited and ramped up to play against them.”
Rams coach Jeff Fisher is equally concerned about what Peterson can do. He witnessed first-hand how Peterson effectively ended the Rams’ 2012 season and, just as that day is tattooed on Peterson’s memory, Fisher hasn’t forgotten it either.
“We went into the game knowing that he has the potential to put the ball in the end zone from anywhere on the field,” Fisher said. “You can’t let your guard down and we started off fast, well against the run. Then we put our defense in a couple bad situations and before you know it he’s racking the yards up. We didn’t go back and look at this with the players, but as a staff this summer we looked at it. We’ve got a lot of the same guys here, but we’ve got a different approach and a different game plan to this. Realistically speaking, you can’t shut him down. It’s hard to find a game where he’s (shut down), unless the team got real behind fast where you’ve taken him out and neutralized him. He’s a very talented player.”
Entering into the picture as the Vikings return to the scene of the crime is going to be new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, making his NFL head coaching debut as wins and losses will be forever emblazoned next to his name. He wants his first game to be a success and he may very well have a well-rested ace up his sleeve.
Asked to assess Peterson heading into the regular season opener, the sentiment was that Zimmer would rather be him than Fisher on Sunday.
“He’s got great power, great acceleration and great vision,” Zimmer said. “Those three things make him really unique and really special. Some of the runs I’ve seen him do out here in practice are like, ‘Wow!’ It’s exciting to watch. Finally for once, I’m glad that he’s on my team and not trying to defend him.”
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Peterson remembers the Rams’ trash talk
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