There have been a lot of explanations given as to why the Minnesota Vikings struggled so badly in the running game in their Week 1 opening win against the Tennessee Titans. By now, most people know the numbers – Adrian Peterson was held to just 31 yards on 19 carries and one out of four was stuffed for a loss.
With the Green Bay Packers coming to town Sunday night, the primary focus of the Packers isn’t going to be who the Minnesota starting quarterback is (although it’s looking pretty certain it will be Sam Bradford). Their focus will be on stopping Peterson.
Peterson was stuffed routinely because the Titans sold out to stop the run, which explains why many of Shaun Hill’s completions were in the 15- to 20-yard range.
What bothered Peterson wasn’t that Tennessee was loading up the box with defenders, but that there were too many missed opportunities.
“Give credit to the Tennessee defense,” Peterson said. “They were a tough challenge for us. We didn’t win every battle up front. We had our share that we did win. But in the midst of that were a couple of opportunities – three, maybe four, runs – just using patience, using our vision more would have allowed some big chunks. In the NFL, you’re going to have games where it’s rough. (You look back and say), ‘What did I miss? How can I correct myself and be better?’ There were definitely those, three of four plays that show up in the run game that I have to be able to execute and make big plays out of them.”
When watching film of the game, the frustration was shared and spread around. Guard Alex Boone was one of the culprits, but it wasn’t a huge implosion up front. It was a missed assignment here and there that led to the struggles of the Vikings run game.
“It’s a one-guy-here-or-there type of thing and they need to be cleaned up,” Boone said. “We’ve addressed it. We’re working on fixing it now. We’ve got to get Adrian loose. He’s such a threat. People being able to shut him down shuts down a lot of our offense. We, as an offensive line, have to take ownership of that and play a lot better.”
The struggles the Vikings had moving the ball, as is often the case in the fantasy football world we live in now, was thrown squarely at Peterson – to the point of the quick-overreaction types to claim Peterson has hit the wall and all of his success is in the past.
Boone not only defended Peterson, he laid the blame directly at his own feet and those of his offensive linemates. They knew what Tennessee had planned – if they didn’t, it became apparent very early on that the Titans were going to flood players near the line of scrimmage to close off running lanes. But, Boone felt the line should have done a better job of using their technique – even against superior numbers – to succeed.
“I think a lot of it – most of it, all of it – falls on the offensive line,” Boone said. “You know you’re going to have nine-man boxes and sometimes 10-man boxes. You’ve got to be able to move people out of the way and you’ve got to make a hole for him to get him through.”
There were a lot of reasons outsiders could justify Peterson’s lack of production, but Boone was quick to point out that excuses are for the losers, not the winners. The Vikings came away with a win, but it was due in large part to a stellar second half by the Minnesota defense.
Boone refuses to accept that the Titans game plan was designed to accomplish what it did. The Vikings should have made modifications to assure it didn’t happen.
“I hate making excuses because I think an excuse lingers forever,” Boone said. “Why not just address the issue and say, ‘Hey, listen. I didn’t play very well that game. Let’s fix it and make it right.’”
With fresh game tape of how one team stacked the line to stop Peterson, he knows the Packers are likely going to try to use it as a blueprint for their attack Sunday night.
But, despite the success the Titans enjoyed in limiting Peterson, there were missed opportunities that could have provided the big plays needed to have a typical Peterson game – something he is driven to correct when Green Bay comes to town.
“At the end of the day, there were four or five plays that I missed – flat out missed – that were 50- or 60-yard plays,” Peterson said. “There were things offensively, where guys came to the sideline and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do better as a group.’ That would have showed a different light as far as the offense and being more productive in the run game. When you watch the film, you are able to see the little things that really stopped (us) from being really efficient in the run game.”