From MVP to fumbling problems?

The focus on Adrian Peterson's ability shifted from him being one of the best in the game to a problem with losing the football.

Last week the talk surrounding Adrian Peterson focused on the Pro Bowl running back's candidacy for the NFL's MVP award. This week, much to the Vikings' dismay, the focus has shifted to Peterson's growing inability to hang onto the football.

Peterson, who leads the NFL in rushing with 1,657 yards, also has fumbled a league-leading eight times this season. Included are four fumbles in the past three games.

Peterson lost one of the two fumbles he committed in the Vikings' 24-17 loss to Atlanta on Sunday at the Metrodome. The Vikings committed an eye-popping seven fumbles and lost four in that game.

The defeat was extremely costly because the Vikings could have clinched the NFC North title with a victory. The Bears' overtime win over the Packers on Monday night means the race for the division will go down to the final Sunday of the season.

The only way the Vikings can fail to win the North is if they lose to the New York Giants at the Metrodome and the Bears win at Houston. Because the Vikings have the tiebreaker, any other scenario would give Minnesota the division.

Assuming the Vikings advance, they certainly are going to need Peterson to hold onto the football.

"You have to take care of the football," coach Brad Childress said. "I understand where there's a violent, explosive hit, where somebody puts their hat right on the football. Those things are hard to contend with. But some of them – and I'm not going to use the word careless, because I don't believe it's careless – but you have to be mindful of that at the end of the run, as you're finishing the run."

Childress drew an interesting comparison between Peterson and former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, who had fumbling issues at one point in his career but cleaned that up when he changed the way he carried the ball.

"All of a sudden you saw that emphasis from (Giants coach) Tom Coughlin and his staff, and from then on there was only one way he carried it, and that was high and tight," Childress said. "Always. Whether he was in the open field or running between the tackles."

Peterson said he attempts to make protecting the ball a priority but knows teams are trying to strip it away from him.

"You have 11 guys on the field that when they're coming at you, they're trying to knock the ball out," Peterson said. "So (I'm) just being more conscious of protecting the ball all the way through until the whistle is blown."

NOTES

  • QB Tarvaris Jackson, making his second consecutive start and his first at the Metrodome since being benched after Week 2, completed 22 of 36 passes for 233 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 98.5 passer rating in the Vikings' 24-17 loss to Atlanta. Jackson was charged with three of the Vikings' seven fumbles and lost two of them, but he actually played well and will start the regular-season finale against the New York Giants on Sunday.

  • QB Gus Frerotte is recovered from a lower-back injury suffered Dec. 7 in Detroit and said last week that he was ready to play against the Falcons. Frerotte didn't hide the fact he wasn't pleased about staying on the bench, but he made it clear he would not create any waves and would be ready to go in case he's called upon. Frerotte posted an 8-3 record as the Vikings' starter after replacing Tarvaris Jackson in Week 3.

  • RB Chester Taylor returned kickoffs for the first time since early this season against Atlanta, but he muffed one. He averaged 14.5 yards on two returns. Taylor had only one rushing attempt for 3 yards on Sunday, his fewest carries since he also had one in Week 4 at Tennessee.

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe had the best day of his six-year NFL career on Sunday, finishing with single-game highs in receptions (seven), yards (136) and touchdowns (two). The Vikings will face Shiancoe's former team, the New York Giants, in their regular-season finale on Sunday at the Metrodome. Shiancoe's seven touchdown catches lead the Vikings.

  • WR Bernard Berrian suffered a sprained ankle against the Falcons, but it's not believed to be serious. Berrian, who returned a punt for a touchdown and also caught a 41-yard scoring pass the previous week at Arizona, had only two receptions for 18 yards on Sunday and fumbled a punt that the Falcons recovered and eventually turned into a touchdown. Berrian's receiving yardage was his fewest in three games.

  • WR Bobby Wade had five catches for 38 yards, his most since Week 7 against Chicago. Wade has a team-leading 49 receptions for 547 yards this season. He led the Vikings with 54 receptions in 2007.

  • DE Jared Allen had his streak of consecutive games with a sack end at three on Sunday. Allen has been playing with shoulder and knee injuries that have severely cut down on his practice time in recent weeks. Allen, though, has not missed a game and leads the Vikings with 14.5 sacks this season.

  • DE Ray Edwards had the Vikings' lone two sacks against the Falcons, giving him five on the season. That is tied for third on the Vikings with linebacker Chad Greenway.

  • NT Fred Evans started in place of the injured Pat Williams on Sunday. Williams is expected to miss two to six weeks because of a fractured right scapula that he suffered last week at Arizona. The Vikings also used veteran Jimmy Kennedy, signed in early December, at the nose tackle position against the Falcons.


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