Peterson leads the NFL with 961 yards rushing, more than 220 yards than his next-closest competition, but it hasn’t always been easy yards.
Peterson leads the NFL with 415 yards after contact, meaning 43 percent of his yards after come after breaking at one initial tackle attempt. Last Sunday’s signature run helped pad those stats, as he iced the game for the Vikings while breaking an arm-tackle attempt by an Oakland Raiders cornerback at a crowded line of scrimmage and sprinting 80 yards for a touchdown.
Displaying both the power and the speed of younger years, Peterson takes pride in proving wrong those who questioned if he would be the same at age 30 after missing the final 15 games of the 2014 season.
“I do a little bit. But then again, people are going to say what they have to say,” he said. “They put you on display because you’re 30. But I just don’t look at things that way. It will actually be small things that I would never even think about. People say, ‘Wow, he’s 30 and he’s still (getting) yards after contact’ and this or that. But it’s good that you see that for what it is. I have to go out and play the game, try to stay in my own lane as far as my mindset and how I see things and let everything else just kind of flow by me.”
Defenses have been flowing to Peterson plenty in recent weeks. Some teams have elected to send repeated run blitzes his way with varying success. Another statistic in which he easily leads the league is “stuffs,” the number of rushes in which he is dropped for lost yardage. That number is up to 29, at least seven more than anyone else.
But it’s further proof that Peterson is willing to keep running as much as needed, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner is willing to continue to call on him. Peterson is on pace for 347 carries, which would be the third-most carries for him in a season. The most came in his second year, when he was 23 years old. Next was in 2012, when he rushed 348 times for 2,097 yards, second-most in NFL history for a single season.
This week, his bullish rushing ways might be even more necessary as the Vikings attempt to keep Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense off the field as much as possible.
“Anytime you play a quarterback like Rodgers, you want to limit his opportunities,” Peterson said. “I feel like we’ve been running the ball pretty good here and when you’re able to do that you’re able to control the clock. It’s not a surprise that’s going to be part of our game plan.”
Peterson averages 117 yards per game against the Packers in 14 matchups with them, and this year Green Bay’s run defense is ranked 24th.
Yet, despite his production against the Packers in the ground game, the Vikings are only 4-9-1 when facing Green Bay with Peterson in the lineup. Two of those wins came in 2009 with former Packers quarterback Brett Favre leading the Vikings.
“It was fun. It was special, especially playing down there in Green Bay and having Favre being a part of that and coming out with a big win,” Peterson said. “It’s always a tough contest when you go into Lambeau to play. With Favre, that was especially a big moment for just the team and for him.”
Now it’s Aaron Rodgers leading the Packers, who have a 9-1-1 record against the Vikings since 2010. Rodgers is one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, sporting a 103.4 rating, but in the last three games that rating has been below 100 as the Packers have dropped three straight games.
The NFC North and border rivalry appears to be in a revival these days as the Vikings are more competitive. The Packers started the season 6-0 but dropped the last three games. The Vikings have won their last five to move to 7-2 and take a one-game lead over Green Bay.
“When you think about where we sit right now, where we stand, and where they are, I feel like on the outside, from your guys’ perspective, and of course I look at it and say, ‘Yes, it is a big game as well,’” he said. “There’s a little more emphasis on it. We just try to look at it for what it is – a divisional game against Green Bay, who’s been winning. We’re not fooled. We know they can play.”