Adrian Peterson’s excellence shows in ‘grind’ of a game for Minnesota Vikings

Despite running for 158 yards, Adrian Peterson said the Falcons made him “grind” for yardage or he might have had 250 yards. Plus we detail the ins and outs of the game with nearly two dozen notes.

The numbers haven’t lied when it comes to the success rate of the Minnesota Vikings being in direct relation to the kind of numbers Adrian Peterson puts up.

In eight games this season, Peterson has rushed 19 times or more. The Vikings are 8-0 in those games, the latest being a 29-carry, 158-yard performance against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

In the process, Peterson began his assault on the all-time rushing list. He entered play Sunday in 21st place on the all-time list with 11,196 yards. With his 158 yards Sunday, he now sits at 1,354 yards, passing O.J. Simpson (11,236) on a 10-yard run on the second quarter into 20th place and passing Corey Dillon (11,241) on a 5-yard run on the next play.

His last carry of the game, a 35-yard touchdown gallop, pushed him past John Riggins (11,352) by two yards into 18th place on the all-time list.

The Vikings offensive line consistently controlled the line of scrimmage, which Teddy Bridgewater said after the game was a point of emphasis of Mike Zimmer following a disappointing performance against Green Bay last week.

“Coach Zimmer talked about being a physical team and I think we were that today,” Bridgewater said. “Atlanta’s the No. 1 rush defense. For us to come in here and rush the ball the way we did today speaks volumes.”

What made Peterson’s performance so memorable was that, in a tight game that wasn’t conclusively decided until Peterson’s fourth-quarter touchdown burst, the load of the offense was put on Peterson’s shoulders.

“We knew when he’s at his best, the cutbacks happen,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “I think that’s part of what happened on the touchdown one where it bounced outside. It was going to be hard fought exactly like we thought. Good running team and we do a good job against the run, so for them we knew that was the battle upfront for us today. There were some good plays on both sides. They had some and we had some, and it was the fight exactly like we anticipated from them.”

In the first half of the game, he rushed 12 times for 48 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, he ran 17 times for 110 yards and another score, which was saying something since he was on the field for just three drives in the half.

“It was a grind. They have the No. 1 rushing defense,” Peterson said. “I give those guys so much credit. Now that I can look back at some of my runs it could have been 250 (yards), but their defense does a great job of tackling and corralling things that they made it hard for our offense to really have those big runs so we had to take those 5- and 7-(yard runs), which kept the chains moving and kept the clock moving.  Normally we want to get seven points and a few times we had to settle for three points but we just kept grinding and kept digging like I preach to the guys.”

On the Vikings’ first drive of the second half with the Vikings leading 7-3, Peterson ran seven times on the first eight plays of the drive, gaining 38 yards. When he was given a breather, the drive gassed and the Vikings kicked a field goal to take a 10-3 lead.

 On the next Vikings drive, which started 10 seconds into the fourth quarter, Peterson ran seven of the first 11 plays for 33 yards and caught a pass for 11 more yards – eight touches on 11 plays – part of a marathon drive that took 8:26 off the clock in the fourth quarter and give the Vikings a two-score lead at 13-3.

“Adrian did a great job. He had some aggressive runs and obviously Adrian’s a very special person and we had a commitment today to get him the ball today and run,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I think our guys did a good job up front for the most part getting to players we needed to get to, to block. I think the receivers did a good job of getting the perimeter. Norv (Turner) made a great call on that last third-and-six or whatever it was and went for the touchdown. This guy is a threat every time he has the football and we are glad he’s ours.”

After the Vikings defense did its job and stopped the Falcons in their own territory on fourth down, Peterson did the rest. He got three straight carries, the last of those being his 35-yard TD run to put the game away.

“Adrian did a great job. He had some aggressive runs and obviously Adrian’s a very special person and we had a commitment today to get him the ball today and run,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I think our guys did a good job up front for the most part getting to players we needed to get to, to block. I think the receivers did a good job of getting the perimeter. Norv (Turner) made a great call on that last third-and-six or whatever it was and went for the touchdown. This guy is a threat every time he has the football and we are glad he’s ours.”

You haven’t heard Peterson’s name mentioned often as a MVP candidate, but with his team sitting alone atop the NFC North at 8-3 – including a record of 8-0 when he rushes 19 times or more – he has become almost the definition of what a Most Valuable Player should be.

GAME DAY NOTES

  • Sunday’s win was the fourth straight road win by the Vikings.
  • With the victory, the Vikings have eight wins, surpassing their 2014 total in just 11 games.
  • Bridgewater had a workmanlike day, completing 20 of 28 passes for 174 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Three of his seven incompletions were throwaways and another pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
  • Bridgewater’s numbers were skewed early. In the first quarter, he completed 8 of 10 passes for 100 yards. In the final three quarters, he completed 12 of 18 passes for just 74 yards.
  • Matt Ryan completed 22 of 31 passes for 230 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. But those numbers were deceiving. When the Vikings took a 20-3 lead, Atlanta was out of timeouts and the Vikings allowed Ryan to complete short passes over the middle to keep the clock moving. Prior to the final four minutes of the game, Matty Ice had completed just 15 of 26 passes for 151 yards with no TDs and two picks.
  • Thanks to his 46-yard run in the first quarter, which ended with a fumble, Atlanta rookie Tevin Coleman rushed 18 times for 110 yards. But, he had 76 yards on 10 carries in the first half and just 34 on eight carries in the second half.
  • For the second straight week, Kyle Rudolph led the Vikings in receiving. Last week, he topped 100 yards. This week, he led the Vikings with seven receptions for 53 yards.
  • Rudolph is the only Vikings player to catch at least one pass in every game this season.
  • Julio Jones didn’t catch a pass until the second quarter and was bottled up the entire game, catching five passes for 56 yards, finishing third on the team in yards and tied for second in receptions as the Vikings refused to let him get deep without double coverage, relegating him to short receptions.
  • Despite being a low-scoring games, given that both teams were able to string together long drives, the teams combined to punt just four times – twice each.
  • Robert Blanton, who replaced Andrew Sendejo when he was injured early in the second quarter, led the Vikings with nine tackles, including eight solo tackles.
  • The Vikings had just two sacks, but both were critical – one by Everson Griffen that ended a drive at the end of the third quarter and one by Anthony Barr on fourth down late in the fourth quarter that effectively salted away the game.
  • Bridgewater wasn’t sacked a single time Sunday. It was only the third time this season that Bridgewater wasn’t sacked in a game – the others being home wins against San Diego and St. Louis.
  • The least penalized team in the league didn’t look like it Sunday. The Vikings committed nine penalties, six of which converted first downs for Atlanta.
  • Both offenses were very efficient on third down. The Vikings converted 7 of 12 third downs (58 percent) and the Falcons made good on five of 11 (45 percent).
  • Atlanta came into Sunday’s game with the top-ranked run defense in the league, allowing just 87 yards a game. The Vikings lit them up for 191 yards on 39 carries, which included three rushes for minus-4 yards by Bridgewater as he kneeled down at the end of the game.
  • In their first seven drives, the Vikings ran 10 or more plays on four of those series.
  • Both teams had just one full drive in the third quarter. Atlanta held the ball for 7:01 and ran 15 plays on the first drive of the second half, which ended with an interception. The Vikings’ only drive of the third quarter was a 10-play drive that took 6:10 and ended in a field goal.
  • Mike Wallace didn’t catch a pass for the second straight week and, in the last five games combined, he has caught just two passes for 26 yards. He did draw two defensive pass interference penalties.
  • Sunday was the first game this year in which Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t have at least one kickoff return.
  • Defensive lineman Tom Johnson was called for two illegal hands to the face penalties, which brought with them automatic first downs.
  • In one of the stranger stats of the year, the Falcons did not throw a pass in the first quarter. The period ended with the only offensive yards coming for Atlanta being 55 yards on four runs by Coleman.
  • Captain Munnerlyn got his first interception on the season Sunday. Terrence Newman leads the team with three after getting another one on Sunday, and five other players have one each.


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