Adrian Peterson took his first carry last year all the way for a 78-yard touchdown.
He predicted it, too, during a conversation the week of the season opener with fellow Minnesota Vikings running backs Toby Gerhart and Matt Asiata.
“I’m going to take it to the house,” Peterson told them, a few days before he scored to start that game at Detroit. “Then when it happened, I came to the sideline and they reminded me of it. They were like, ‘Oh, man, you said you were going to do that.’”
So how about this year, Sunday at St. Louis?
“Hopefully I will try to say it again and hopefully it will work on the same way,” Peterson said.
Thanks to some prompting from a reporter Thursday, Peterson turned that hope into a prediction.
“Yeah, I might as well speak it,” he said. “Touchdown. First run.”
Far more important than the net gain from the first time he touches the ball, of course, is the production Peterson can provide over 16 or more games. The cruel irony of that highlight-reel first carry of 2013 was that the Vikings lost that afternoon to the Lions and went on to finish 5-10-1 after making the playoffs the prior season.
Peterson was nagged by injuries and a sprained right foot kept him out of two December games. He finished with a career-low 1,266 rushing yards.
This year, with Norv Turner now the offensive coordinator, the Vikings will try to preserve Peterson’s health with more carries outside of the tackles and short passes to cut down on some of the contact.
“Listen, there’s some great backs just as good as him in the tackle box, but I think when he gets in the second level and you let him out into the back end of your defense he’s the best,” Rams defensive end Chris Long said. “That’s what separates him: his ability to break a run. He’s not just going to chip away at you. You can have him pinned down at the 7-yard line, and he’s going to go for 93 yards and a score.”
The last time the Vikings faced the Rams, Peterson rushed for 212 yards on his way to a 2,097-yard season.
That, he said, was also the first time he mouthed off to an opponent.
“Those guys had me so hot, like I haven’t ever been that mad playing football,” Peterson said. He added: “Those guys were talking so much noise, and then we ripped off a long run and they got kind of quiet. So hopefully things play out the same way.”
The offensive line will have a lot to do with that.
For the third straight year, the Vikings have the same lineup intact. Only Washington has more combined starts (159) by the front five over that span than Minnesota (157), according to STATS research, due to one game each missed to injury in 2013 by Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson and Phil Loadholt. John Sullivan and Matt Kalil have had perfect attendance.
Facing All-Pro Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, Kalil will be counted on heavily Sunday, and coach Mike Zimmer said Kalil had his two best practices of the season Wednesday and Thursday. Another player in the spotlight will be wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who’s eager to show off his kickoff return skills again along with a significant expansion of his role in the offense from his rookie year.
But as long as Peterson is with the Vikings, the show is going to start and end with him.
“It should be exciting,” Zimmer said. “It’ll be fun to have him on my side for a change.”
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Peterson calls for first-touch touchdown
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