It had been close to two years since Adrian Peterson had played a home regular season game for the Minnesota Vikings and the first time he had ever played at TCF Bank Stadium. He made it memorable, carrying 29 times for 134 yards and showing the flashes that fans have come to expect in Minnesota’s 26-16 win over Detroit.
Peterson assumed he was going to have a chance for a big day because he has owned Detroit – topping 100 yards rushing in eight of 13 career games against the Lions.
But even Peterson didn’t think he was going to be the workhorse he turned out being.
“I don’t know if that was actually the game plan, but it was working,” Peterson said. “I guess if it was working, don’t stop.”
His teammates had spent most of the last year without their star running back and they were quick to confess that they missed the explosiveness that he can bring to the table.
“That was the Adrian we’re used to seeing,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “There are certain players in this league that can change games by themselves with the talent they have. He is one of those special players and you saw it today.
Even when he made mistakes, Peterson found a way to turn it into something positive. In the second quarter, Peterson whiffed on a block and had Teddy Bridgewater running for his life. Looking to avoid a sack, Bridgewater threw an underhand flip to Peterson, who raced 49 yards into Lions territory.
Even bad things went well for Peterson Sunday, who credited Bridgewater for his improvisational skills.
“What a heads-up play,” Peterson said. “It was a terrible feeling for me. It looked weak and pitiful to be honest. But a heads-up play by Teddy, just making something happen. You see me at the end of the play just beating my head because I’m thinking about the block I missed, so that’s how important it is to me. But he did a great job of making plays.”
Even Zimmer, a stickler for details, credited Peterson: “Ah, but he made the run,” Zimmer said when asked about the missed block.
The Vikings that fans saw Sunday were a far cry from the sad-sack performance put in at San Francisco Monday night. The difference between this week and last week was night and day, literally, and Peterson said the group that came back from California had as chip on its shoulder and was looking to take that aggression out on someone.
“Guys came in and we took it personally,” Peterson said. “We started off fast. We had energy on both sides of the ball. Special teams made some big plays to keep the energy flowing. We came out and played with a purpose. We had a game plan, Coach Zimmer and Coach (Norv) Turner, those guys put it together for us and we were able to execute it.”
For a year of tumult that saw Peterson suspended and his loss of face in the community was something that fans were divided on. But of all the things that went well for A.P. on Sunday, it was perhaps the ovation during the introduction of the offense that was the most impressive – a standing ovation and loud chants of “A.P.! A.P.!”
“It felt good,” Peterson said. “You can see as I ran through the tunnel, the energy that you see as I was running, that came from the fans. Just that warm welcome, it felt good to be back home.”
It’s been a couple months short of two years since the home fans have seen Peterson, but he reminded them what they’ve been missing and that there will many more memories to come in the future now that he’s back in the fold.
- The Vikings defense was oppressive against the run Sunday. Detroit had only 38 yards rushing on 16 attempts and the leading rusher was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who isn’t known for being a scrambler. The Lions running backs combined to run 12 times for 18 yards.
- The Lions ran more plays, but it was extremely lopsided on the pass-run mix. The Lions ran 70 plays – 54 passes and 16 runs, which included four scrambles by Stafford that were designed to be runs. The Vikings ran 61 plays – 42 runs and 19 passes.
- Teddy Bridgewater didn’t throw much but was extremely efficient, completing 14 of 18 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a passer rating of 120.6.
- The Lions didn’t go away from their bread and butter receiver Sunday. The Vikings mixed up coverages on Calvin Johnson. He was targeted 17 times and caught 10 passes, but didn’t have any explosive plays. His 10 receptions netted just 83 yards with a long of 18.
- Kyle Rudolph led the Vikings with five catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. His score moved him into third place on the all-time touchdown list for Vikings tight ends, moving past Stu Voigt with his 18th career TD. He now is chasing only Steve Jordan (28) and Visanthe Shiancoe (24).
- The Vikings didn’t do many things wrong Sunday, but Zimmer couldn’t have been pleased with the penalties his team committed. Minnesota had 10 penalties for 97 yards and six of them resulted in Detroit first downs.
- The Vikings got in the red zone six times, but came away with just three touchdowns.
- The Lions had a whopping 18-play drive in the fourth quarter as they dinked and dunked their way down the field to score a touchdown with 1:48 to play in the game.
- The Vikings are 32-22-1 on regular-season home openers in franchise history.
- There were three coach challenges of bad spots during the game. Both teams won a challenge of a spot, but the Vikings lost a challenge that, even on review, appeared as though it could have been overturned as well.
- Marcus Sherels had a 31-yard punt return in the third quarter that got the Vikings deep into Eagles territory and would lead to a touchdown.
- The Vikings had 21 rushes in the first half and 21 rushes in the second half. The Lions had eight rushes in the first half and eight rushes in the second half.
- Blair Walsh missed an extra point, continuing his woes in the 2015 season. He heard a loud chorus of boos from the home fans afterward.
- The Vikings dominated the first quarter, outgaining the Lions 133-34, including a huge disparity in rushing yards (107-5).
- On the first drive of the game, the Vikings set the tone of what they planned on offense. The team drove 75 yards on 11 plays with Peterson running seven times for 45 yards. On his fifth carry, he passed the total he had for the entire San Francisco game.
- Prior to the national anthem, four skydivers hit the field, with the last delivering a POW/MIA flag. The skydivers were coming in hot and the last one slid into the Detroit bench area, making players scatter to avoid getting tangled up in his parachute.
- The paid attendance was 52,319.