There are certain things that can typically be expected of a Minnesota Vikings team – if they’re going to win, it will likely be on the back of running back Adrian Peterson. In Sunday’s 30-14 win over the Oakland Raiders, it was a dominating performance by Peterson in the second half that preserved a 20-14 halftime lead and put the game away.
Peterson rushed 26 times for 203 yards – the final 80 of those coming on a touchdown burst on the first play after the two-minute warning to put the game away.
It was the sixth time in nine games that Peterson has rushed 20 or more times, the third straight week he rushed 20 or more times and the third game in a row in which he topped 100 yards.
His 203-yard performance was the sixth time in his career that Peterson has topped the 200-yard mark – tying the all-time record held by O.J. Simpson. But it wasn’t the 80-yard run that was the carry that typified his performance Sunday, it was what he did on the 13 carries prior to that that put the true stamp on the game.
“He’s doing good,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “That’s what we expect out of him. When you break off those big long runs, you tend to get a lot of yards.”
At halftime, Peterson had a pretty decent day going, having rushed 12 times for 49 yards. With the Vikings clinging to a 20-14 halftime lead, the Vikings turned to Peterson to control the ball on offense and work the clock. He lived up to everything that was asked of him.
On their first drive of the half, Peterson ran three straight times for 11 yards to move the chains. When he came out for a breather, the Vikings’ drive stalled and they gave the ball back to Oakland.
The Vikings’ next got the ball with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter and put together an 11-play drive that ate more than five minutes of the clock. The drive was Peterson-centric. Of the 10 plays the Vikings offense ran, Peterson got the ball on six of them – rushing six times for 48 yards and helping the Vikings move all the way from their own 19-yard to the Oakland 21-yard line. Blair Walsh got his 39-yard field goal attempt blocked, but the Vikings had controlled the clock and taken any momentum Oakland might have been building away from them.
The Vikings got the ball back with 9:31 to play and went back to the bell cow. While the big play of the drive was a 37-yard pass and run from Teddy Bridgewater to Stefon Diggs, Peterson continued to do the dirty work. He carried the ball four times for 14 yards as the Vikings picked up three first downs and, once again, when he went out to get a breather, the offense stalled. But this time Walsh made good on a 34-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 23-14 lead and the cushion of being ahead by two scores.
After Terence Newman intercepted his second pass of the game in the end zone, putting the ball on the 20-yard line, Peterson does what only he and a handful of players in the NFL can do – break through the first line of containment and be off to the races, scoring the sealing touchdown on a run of 80 yards that gave the Vikings a 30-14 lead that would turn out to be the final score.
The numbers are beginning to pile up for Peterson. In the two games the Vikings have lost, he has rushed just a combined 26 times for 112 yards. In the seven games in which the Vikings have won, he has rushed 169 times for 749 yards. He may not be in the league MVP conversation, but, if you look at the players who are most valuable to their teams, it’s hard to dispute that there are many that are more important to their side of the ball as Peterson has been for the Vikings offense.
In what will likely be his final appearance in Oakland, Peterson left Raiders fans in the same boat as he has Packers, Lions and Bears fans once a year since 2007 – shaking their heads in awe. At age 30, most running backs are either done with their careers or on the steep decline. Not only is Peterson not in that position, he’s playing some of the best ball of his career and it is translating into wins for the Vikings.