The way that Adrian Peterson has performed has left the national and local pundits gushing praise, but the Vikings' draft success goes beyond their runaway rookie of the year candidate.
From second-round receiver Sidney Rice all the way down to fifth-round receiver Aundrae Allison, the Vikings are getting good production out of all of their draft picks.
"I know for a fact that we have one of the top rookie classes," said fifth-round receiver Aundrae Allison, who has only one reception this season but has been a big part of the team's return game in two contests. "You can say (I) could have gone earlier or Sidney should have went first (round) or the same with me. It worked out the way it did and I think they put together a good puzzle as far as offense."
Rice had a career-best game the last time the Vikings faced the Packers with six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, and he's coming off another solid performance from last Sunday, when he had four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers.
His chances were increased because normal starters Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson were both limited – Williamson didn't attend the game because he was tending to funeral arrangements for his grandmother and Wade was severely limited after suffering a hyperextended knee against San Diego.
"I just hope to go out there and every game I hope for an opportunity and thank God for any opportunity," Rice said. "With Bobby still shook up, he still came in and played well, did a great job of perimeter blocking for Adrian and Chester (Taylor)."
That didn't go unnoticed when head Brad Childress looked at film the day after the Vikings' third win of the season.
"The thing that really stood out (Monday) watching the offensive side of the football was how the wide receivers got after it," Childress said. "I mean, I'm talking about mounting people and cutting people and clawing people. They were really a tenacious outfit and it takes a toll. Play-action has only got a chance to be better when we need to use it later. It helped us with Sidney's touchdown."
The top three rookies on offense are starting to feed off each other. The receivers are blocking downfield for Peterson and assisting him against the second level of the defense on his long touchdown runs, which is causing defenses to try to key on Peterson more.
After Peterson's second touchdown of the game against the Chargers, a 64-yard run, the defense appeared to pay him more attention. Whether it was a play-action pass or not, Rice used a quick move on cornerback Drayton Florence to get past him later in the third quarter for a 40-yard touchdown.
"I feel like we help each other, running backs and wide receivers. We just try to help block for them and also them running the ball well opens up the passing game. It goes both ways," Rice said. "I just gave (Florence) a little stutter move at the top and felt him bite and I looked up. By the time I looked up, the ball was in the air, it carried me a little bit to the sideline and I felt like I was going to step out of bounds, so that's when I just dove."
Peterson also helped Allison on his 62-yard kickoff return on the first opportunity he got. Allison fielded the ball in the middle of the field, and 2006 undrafted rookie Charles Gordon flanked off to the right and Peterson headed directly to the left. Allison faked a backwards pass to Peterson, which drew a few defenders to the sidelines, and headed straight up the field to give the offense the ball at San Diego's 39-yard line. That eventually led to Peterson's first touchdown of the game.
"We knew just pumping the ball over to Adrian Peterson, a lot of people would go over there because he's an attention grabber," Allison said. "Any time he's on the field, you've got to be alert. I was just trying to get to the next level and make a guy miss."
For the offensive draft picks of 2007, Peterson is the power that drives them, but each of the trio is having a solid showing with however many opportunities they are getting respectively – even they don't discuss it much among themselves.
"We don't talk about it too much. Like at the house and stuff, we don't really talk too much football," Rice said. "I think the rookies, they're just trying to contribute, just like the three-year players, we're just trying to fit in and do our job."
CARTER ON PETERSON
Former Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter named Adrian Peterson as his offensive rookie of the year at the midway point. While Carter had high praise for Peterson, he wasn't ready to name him the best running back in the league.
"I'm not sure we've seen this combination since Bo Jackson. However, Bo didn't have quite the skill set that Peterson offers. Bo had the speed, but he wasn't a great technical runner. He wasn't nearly as elusive as Peterson. This kid has the ability to run through tackles, make people miss in the open field and rarely gets caught from behind," Carter wrote in his Yahoo.com column. "One thing I will say though: Folks are already suggesting that he's the best running back in the league. That's premature at this point. He's not savvy enough in pass protection and he's not a dynamic receiving threat yet. I don't care how many yards he has, I'm not going to say he's better than LaDainian Tomlinson right now."
DRIVER ON PETERSON
Packers wide receiver Donald Driver said Peterson's 296-yard record-setting performance last week hasn't been a big talker in the Green Bay locker room.
"No one is talking about him. Not at all. Like I said, he's a great player and he has proven that. We're not in our defensive meetings; most likely they probably are talking about him and trying to say that they have to stop him," Driver said. "But we know that our defense, they're going to be able to take care of business."
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway after Sunday's win: "Everything is so much sweeter when you win and we just have to remember this feeling for next week and the weeks after."