In the day and age where football teams tend to lean on the passing attack more and attacking teams downfield the Minnesota Vikings continue to stick with the running game as their bread and butter. They want to be able to wear a defense down by riding on the back of Adrian Peterson and that was shown once again Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Peterson ran the ball 26 times for 203 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Vikings ran the ball 33 times for 263 yards and a touchdown, pushing them to the top of the NFL’s run-game rankings. When a team runs the ball as often as the Vikings do, it takes away from their passing game, which is something people thought they might use more against the Raiders’ 32nd-ranked pass defense.
When you ask the players in the locker room, though, they were not surprised by the amount they used Peterson. It was their game plan the entire time.
“That’s our game plan every week,” said wide receiver Charles Johnson. “Sometimes they’re going to shut him down a little bit more where we’ve got to throw the ball a little bit more, but our game plan is to go and run the ball with Adrian Peterson.”
Even though the Vikings’ wide receivers don’t get as many targets or catches as receivers on other teams do, they still play a very important role in the offense. They need to be able to block effectively downfield for the offense to work properly.
Yes, Peterson is going to be able to make a lot of big plays on his own but it always helps spring him into open space if the receivers are able to get to the second level and block on the back end.
“We play a key part,” Stefon Diggs said. “Being a receiver isn’t all about catching the balls and all the glitter and shine. You’ve got to do some dirty work and make some key blocks, especially when you’ve got the running back that we have. It will definitely turn 10-yard gains into touchdowns when you have those blocks on the back end, so it’s not always about covering and catching passes. If you make some key blocks good things can happen.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has been pleased with the way his receivers have been blocking downfield. They don’t always get the credit they might deserve, but when Peterson is having a good day, the downfield blocking is usually on par.
“It’s important when we’re able to spring these runs,” Zimmer said. “Honestly, the tight ends blocked very well this week. Ellison, Rudolph and Pruitt all blocked very well to help get some of this. But the receivers, when they can get on the safeties and figure out who the support guy is – the corner or the safety or sometimes the linebackers – it’s important to be able to spring runs and it makes the 4-yard run a 10-yard run.”
In his two years in Minnesota, Zimmer has created an unselfish football team, not only on the defense but the offense as well. Wide receiver is often a position that gets a “diva” tag with it, as players can often get upset when they are not getting many touches.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with the receivers on the Vikings, though. They seem to be buying into this run-first mentality and are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They talk about a lot of give and take with the team and know if they do their part to help out their teammates then, in turn, their teammates will help them out when it is their turn to shine.
And they know that having Peterson dominate on the ground will only help them in the long run and put their team in the best position possible moving forward.
“Come on now, we’ve got the best running back in the game,” Diggs said. “You give him the ball and he’s going to show you what he can do all the time. And we have complete trust in him on the outside as receivers and we’re trying to give him the best blocks we can, just as far as to put us in the best position. He’s a guys who’s going to put us in the best position possible, so that’s all we’re trying to do.”