Vikings: The plan without Peterson

The Vikings will be without Adrian Peterson for at least this week and possibly far beyond that. Since his arrival in 2007, the Vikings have gone 4-5 in games without him and this Sunday will be Matt Asiata’s opportunity.

Now what?

That seemed to be the general vibe among Vikings fans as the news of the team deactivating Adrian Peterson went worldwide – to the point of being the top story on the national news shows.

As a post-Ray Rice media feeding frenzy got new blood in the water with the Peterson revelations, the subject of parental punishment has now joined forces with domestic violence as a general public talking at a time when The Shield is taking a lot of hits.

You can bet the amount of national media – sports and non-sports alike – and their satellite truck spawn that join them will likely have reporters fighting over shooting angles to get the Vikings ship in the background at Winter Park in the coming days.

There is a bigger picture to the Peterson story, but the Vikings still have to conduct business – with A.P. as the focal point of the offense or not. It’s not new territory, but it is rarified air.

In his career, Peterson has missed nine games. In those missed games, the Vikings’ fortunes have risen and fallen proportionately as others have been asked to handle the ground game.

Here is a breakdown of the fill-ins for Peterson and what they accomplished in his absence.

Week 15 (48-30 win vs. Philadelphia) –
Matt Asiata: 30 carries, 51 yards, three touchdowns.

Week 17 (14-13 win vs. Detroit) – Asiata: 14 carries, 115 yards; Cordarrelle Patterson two rushes, 54 yards, one touchdown.


Week 12 (24-14 loss at Atlanta) –
Toby Gerhart : 17 rushes, 44 yards, one touchdown.

Week 13 (35-32 loss vs. Denver) – Gerhart : 21 rushes, 91 yards.

Week 14 (34-28 loss at Detroit) – Joe Webb: 7 rushes, 109 yards, one touchdown; Gerhart: 19 rushes, 90 yards; Percy Harvin: (4 rushes, 40 yards).

Week 17 (17-13 loss vs. Chicago) – Gerhart : 15 rushes, 67 yards; Harvin: four rushes, 13 yards, one touchdown.


Week 15 (40-14 loss vs. Chicago) –
Gerhart : 16 rushes, 77 yards; Webb: six rushes, 36 yards, one touchdown.


Week 11 (29-22 win vs. Oakland) –
Chester Taylor : 22 rushes, 164 yards, three touchdowns.

Week 12 (41-17 win at New York Giants) – Taylor: 31 rushes, 77 yards, one touchdown.

The trend of missed games with Peterson depended on the season. Last year, Asiata made the most of his opportunity. Taylor did the same in 2007. In between, there was a string of losses.

The fact that Asiata has had two strong outings in his two opportunities is reason for potential optimism on the football field. He was asked twice to step out of the understudy role and into the spotlight. Once he scored three touchdowns. In the other, he ran for more than 100 yards.

This year, with the Vikings allowing Gerhart to leave via free agency, Asiata slimmed down in the offseason and worked on his quickness. He said during the preseason he still had some things in his game he wanted to improve.

“Reading my blocks as a runner, being an NFL runner,” he said. “Just being patient and hitting the holes real quick. You can’t really do what Adrian does, but looking at him you see what he does and just try to do it.”

As the Vikings prepare to play without Peterson Sunday, the feeling of the fan base is one of concern. But the Vikings still have to play Sunday – with or without Peterson. The offensive game plan is clearly going to change, but it isn’t going to curl up and die. There are 50-plus other Vikings ready to pick up the slack. Asiata will be at the forefront, along with rookie Jerick McKinnon and possibly Joe Banyard as a potential call-up from the practice squad.

“After seeing Toby getting released, I’ve got to push myself that much harder to just be there for Adrian and the rest of the team,” Asiata said last month. “I’m trying to be the guy for the offense and trying to show the new coaches what I can do out of the backfield and catching the ball and all of that.”

In the coming days and weeks, we’re going to find out when Peterson will return to the lineup, if ever, but until then, the Vikings have to conduct their business as usual under unusual circumstances. The team has been without Peterson before and has found ways to win games. At noon Sunday, the Vikings are going to face the Patriots. Unfortunately, the player discussed most will be the one who isn’t playing.

Perhaps by 3 p.m. Friday, Asiata may be the player being talked about most.

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.

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