Early in his career, Adrian Peterson didn’t like having a fullback in front of him. He has become used to that, and now the Minnesota Vikings have a new wrinkle they are using more often – three tight ends.
According to STATS, the Vikings have used three tight ends three times more than offensive coordinator Norv Turner did that in 2011 and 2012 with San Diego and in 2013 with the Cleveland, and there’s good reason for that. It’s been an effective offensive set for Peterson.
Peterson is averaging a whopping 9.9 yards per carry when the Vikings use their “13” personnel – one running back and three tight ends. It’s easily the highest average per carry of any of the offensive sets and he has 268 yards from that look.
“It fits our style and the way we like to play,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “(Turner) is a great offensive mind and been around the game for a long time. Yeah, it might not be the way he used to do things. Our offense might not be like the days of old with Norv’s system, but he’s a great offensive mind and we have a bunch of other great offensive coaches on that staff that come up with creative ways to put us in the best situation.”
On first-and-10, the Vikings have actually passed more from the three-tight end set than run it, but some of their greatest success comes using it in the fourth quarter. That happened last week on third-and-5 late in the fourth quarter. After running the ball in between the tackles often in that game and getting Atlanta’s No. 1-ranked run defense pinched inside, Turner switched it up and had Peterson run around left end for a 35-yard touchdown.
Rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt and Rudolph got key sealing blocks at the line of scrimmage and Ellison provided the key and sustained block downfield.
“When you do your job, like with me just being patient, it gives those guys, Rhett and Kyle, gives those guys time to get on their blocks,” Peterson said. “When that ball’s hiked, they know I’m coming full speed. So they’re doing a good job of doing where they need to be and creating holes for me.”
Another key play with three tight ends came two weeks earlier at Oakland. All three tight ends were lined up on the right side of the line and blocked down. Peterson made the cornerback miss on the edge and was gone for another game-sealing, 80-yard touchdown with 1:50 left in the game.
“You’ve just got to go with what’s working. Obviously getting more blockers for Adrian and opening up more holes, it’s a good feeling when you do that,” left tackle Matt Kalil said. “When the other team knows what’s coming and they still can’t stop it, especially like last week being in those situations and putting the dagger in the heart and finishing the game on offense, it’s fun to do that.”