He’s back! And so, apparently, is his comfort zone.
After a rough start for the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson in San Francisco, when he opened the season with 10 carries for just 31 yards, Peterson has been on a tear. He has back-to-back 100-yard games, posting 29 carries for 134 yards in Week 2 against the Detroit Lions and following that up with 20 carries for 126 yards (a 6.3-yard average) against the San Diego Chargers.
The last two weeks have propelled Peterson into the NFL lead for rushing yards with 291, accounting for two of the 15 100-yard individual rushing performances in the NFL through three weeks.
So what has been the difference? For one, Peterson said he is back in football shape after putting in extra time last week.
“The biggest thing is I would make sure I’m just in position to make sure my lungs are open,” he said after Sunday’s game. “Last week I felt like my condition wasn’t where I need it to be and I’m not saying I wasn’t in shape. I’m probably in better shape than 80 percent of the guys that were out there, but I wasn’t able to really run the ball and recover like I was used to. I was able to identify after the first drive what it was, took care of that.”
But there could be another factor in Peterson’s success Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Sure, the Chargers haven’t displayed a great run-stopping defense yet this year, ranked 28th in the NFL now, but the Vikings seemed to have shifted their philosophy to get Peterson more comfortable.
In the season opener, when Peterson carried the ball just 10 times for 31 yards, not much went right. Six of his carries came when Teddy Bridgewater was under center and four of them with Bridgewater in the shotgun or pistol formation.
Against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, all 20 of Peterson carries – along with the other 10 handoffs to running backs – came when Bridgewater was under center.
“We went in saying we were going to try to run the ball a bit, yeah,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “It wasn’t really saying gun or no gun or anything like that. We had a lot of plays on that sheet. Sometimes they just get called that way.”
So how does “gun or no gun” affect Bridgewater? Against San Diego, anyway, he was 11-for-17 for 91 yards when he was in the shotgun or pistol, including his interception in the end zone. When under center he was 2-for-7 for only 30 yards.
Despite Peterson running most of his career with the quarterback under center, he says the biggest difference Sunday was how he felt physically, thanks in part to some extra wind sprints he ran last Tuesday.
“My legs felt lighter today and just the preparation throughout the week helped with that, but I felt good,” he said. “The body felt good. My mind was in a great place, and yeah, I think I’m back.”