What Is a Playmaker?

Adrian Peterson said all the right things following Sunday's loss, but head coach Brad Childress is being questioned by the fans and the media -- both national and local -- for not using Peterson more in close losses the last two weeks. With the chance to win both games on the line, most find it hard to fathom how your best playmaker is left riding the pine at crunch time.

Brad Childress has spent the last 24 hours defending his decision to not utilize Adrian Peterson in the second half of Sunday's 23-16 loss to the Packers that dropped the Vikings to 1-3 on the season, and perhaps more importantly, 0-2 in the division and three full games behind Green Bay with a loss in hand.

The question on the minds of many Vikings fans is quite simply, "Why?" Peterson had 10 carries in the first half for 108 yards and was the only real offensive threat the Vikings had. But, in the second half of a tight game, especially in a drive in the final minute-plus in which the team needed a big play, their biggest playmaker of the 2007 season was shaking his head on the sidelines standing next to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell hoping to get back into action. For the second straight week, the Vikings had a chance to send a game to overtime with a score – against the Chiefs, a touchdown could have won the game and a field goal could have sent the game to O.T.

In both instances, Peterson was on the sideline. In his defense of allowing Peterson just two carries and one reception in the second half, Childress said that is one of the problems of having a two-back system. Several teams have a two-back system. Some have compared the Vikings' situation to that of the Saints. Childress has mentioned a similar situation he had with the Eagles. Unfortunately, it seems to be the cliché apples-and-oranges argument.

Before Deuce McAllister went down for the season, the Saints had a two-headed backfield that featured him and Reggie Bush. Bush is a speedster who many feel can never be the 25-carry workhorse that can pound the ball between the tackles. For their purposes, Bush has been spread out and put in motion often, allowing both he and McAllister to thrive in the system. A similar situation was true at Childress' old haunt in Philly. Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter were in the same backfield, but Westbrook would be lined up as a wide receiver and was as dangerous as a receiver as he was a rusher.

It would seem the situation with the Vikings is very different. Peterson and Taylor are the same basic types of runners. Both can take runs between the tackles or bounce them outside. The only apparent difference from the early portion of the season is that Peterson does both better. It's not a shot at Taylor, but the fact remains that, if the Vikings had the chance to draft JaMarcus Russell in the draft at No. 7, they would have. It wouldn't have been an evaluation of the skills of Tarvaris Jackson, but rather an opportunity to add an explosive playmaker to the lineup. That was why they took Peterson at No. 7 in the this year's draft and gave him an extremely lucrative contract.

"We're going to continue to change those guys up and put those fresh legs in there from time to time, whether it is Chester's (Taylor) fresh legs or whether it's Adrian's fresh legs," Childress said Monday.

As the Vikings head into the bye week, it will be an opportunity for the players and coaches to reflect on what has transpired to date and the difficult road ahead of them upon their return to action – road games against the Bears and Cowboys and home games against the Eagles and Chargers, all playoff teams from 2006. While the 1-3 start has been a disappointment, the reality of the situation is this: if Ryan Longwell doesn't clunk a 52-yard field goal off the left upright against the Lions, the Vikings are 2-0. If the team gets a touchdown drive against the Chiefs in the final minute, they're 3-0. If they get a late score after an improbable turnover late against the Packers, the game goes to overtime.

Instead, they lost all three opportunities and all three games. Perhaps it might be time to re-think the policy of a time share for the time being. The Vikings can't afford to go 1-3 in their next four games – although they will likely be underdogs in all four. It may be time to see the game the same way the fans see it. The biggest plays of the year on offense have almost all been made by Peterson. Maybe it's time to make him the running bell cow and hold Taylor in reserve. Losing is bad enough but when you lose and the one player who most feel is capable of making the big play is standing on the sidelines, it just doesn't make sense. Some of us have taken logic classes and logic would dictate putting Peterson on the field more – even if it's at the expense of Taylor.


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