Last week, Viking Update asked Adrian Peterson how many carries in a game would be too many for him. Peterson gave his signature smile and said 200.
Considering that the Vikings had 29 rushes and 29 passes in Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Peterson's tongue-in-cheek answer was an obvious exaggeration, but the point was taken: He believes he can handle whatever load the Vikings place on him.
Judging from their effort on Sunday, they know that Peterson is their best offensive weapon. He rushed 25 times for 102 yards and caught three passes for 48 yards. His combined rushing and receiving yardage accounted for well over half of the Vikings' 252 total net yards.
"He's an unbelievable guy, but he can't keep doing it all," said quarterback Kelly Holcomb, who passed for 165 yards and would make his second start in purple if Tarvaris Jackson's groin injury doesn't heal sufficiently by Sunday. "We have to step up in the passing game. (Peterson is) pretty incredible watching him, but he can't last like that either. He can't last getting the ball that many times in this league.
"I know he's a young guy. He's got a great physique, but it's hard in this league to keep doing that. We've got to help him offensively."
Through three game, Peterson has been the team's leader in rushes (64), rushing yards (271) and receiving yards (160).
"I just prepare myself to come out and contribute in any way – catching the ball and running the ball also," he said when asked if he expected to assume that big of a workload that early into his rookie season.
The main reason for an unbalanced attack to date is that the quarterback situation has been so volatile. While Jackson did what Childress asks of his quarterbacks – to "manage the game" – in the season opener, he followed that with a four-interception performance against the Detroit Lions in a Week 2 20-17 overtime loss.
With Jackson injured in overtime of that game, Holcomb stepped into the starting role on Sunday and completed only 50 percent of his passes for 165 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
The wide receivers, meanwhile, are hoping to become a bigger part of the offense and take some pressure away from the rookie running back.
"I would love to catch a few balls and let him rest a little bit," said first-year Viking Robert Ferguson. "I'm very impressed with him. I've been watching football for a long time and it's pretty safe to say that he's one of the best young running backs that I've seen come around, not just here but in the NFL. I think we could see him run it a little less and put it in the air."
However, when the Vikings were forced to put the ball in the air in their last-minute desperation drive in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Peterson's only opportunity to contribute was to cheer from the sidelines, as the coaches felt more comfortable with Mewelde Moore in the backfield to pick up the "exotic" blitzes that Childress feared might be coming with a last-ditch-effort drive.
"I wasn't tired at all. It was a coaches decision," Peterson said. "Mewelde has been around longer being in those situations. I'm still jelling, and Lord-willing in the future I'll be that guy."
The Vikings might be forced to throw the ball more if their next opponent, the undefeated Green Bay Packers, continues its offensive trend. In a stark contrast to the Vikings' run-heavy offense, the Packers threw the ball 47 times in their comeback win Sunday against the San Diego Chargers and ran it only 13 times.
That is exactly the offensive approach that has burned the Vikings defense since Childress took over as head coach and Mike Tomlin and Leslie Frazier have been the defensive coordinators of their Tampa-2 scheme. If the Packers put points up early and often at the Metrodome on Sunday, the Vikings may be forced out of their conservative offensive approach. However, if Minnesota can use Peterson to limit the amount of chances quarterback Brett Favre gets to put the ball in air, the rookie back could be in for another workhorse Sunday.
"My body is telling me, ‘Bring it on,'" Peterson said the day after rushing 25 times. "I'm feeling good. Just jump in the cold tub and come Tuesday or Wednesday, I'm feeling fresh."
Peterson Relishes Workhorse Role
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