You can hit him, knock him down and even stick him with a needle, but Adrian Peterson's persistence paid off in Sunday's opener. An unproductive and dehydrated first half was only the start to a 180-yard, three-touchdown effort. Plus, get more than two dozen stats and notes that help tell the tale of the Vikings' 34-20 win.
As would be expected, coming into Sunday's 34-20 win over the Cleveland Browns
in the regular-season opener, all of the talk on the pregame shows and the actual start of the game centered on Brett Favre
. But it was the "other guy" who is the real centerpiece of the Vikings offense and forced the announcers, analysts and fans to take notice. Adrian Peterson
wasn't his usual self early, but took over the game in the second half to once again put his stamp on a Vikings victory.
"Everyone in the stadium knows Adrian Peterson is going to get it, and he still runs for 180 yards. That's remarkable," Favre said.
At halftime, things looked pretty grim. Despite controlling the tempo of the game for much of the first half, the Vikings trailed 13-10. Worse yet, Peterson was getting fluids pumped into his body intravenously and was a question mark heading into the second half.
Peterson said he was feeling light-headed and it was the first time he had to get fluids intravenously.
"That was my first time ever getting an IV during a game. I needed it," he said. "After that I came out feeling good." good."
It was unclear why Peterson was so dehydrated, but he had just 25 yards rushing on nine carries in the first half, including just one yard on two rushes in the second quarter. But, as those who have seen Peterson on a regular basis over his first two seasons already know, you have to keep your popcorn ready because he can explode at anytime.
As the Vikings took over the game, so did Peterson. On the first drive of the second half, he carried five times for 15 yards, including three carries inside the 4-yard line to score a touchdown and give the Vikings back the lead at 17-13. As he came off the field, it was clear he had an I.V. at halftime because blood was streaming down his left arm. He was taped up and didn't miss any time – and again made his presence felt. On the second drive of the half, he carried five times, but this time gaining 36 yards and setting up another touchdown to give Minnesota a 24-13 lead with 1:06 to play in the third quarter.
Not willing to stop with 51 yards on 10 carries in the third quarter, He had six carries in the fourth quarter for 104 yards – highlighted by a 64-yard touchdown run in which he showed his burst and acceleration to the outside and personally pushed away two would-be tacklers on his way to a touchdown.
"It was fun," he said. "I was determined to get into the end zone and stick the dagger in."
The accolades for Peterson just continue to mount. With his 180 yards Sunday, he vaulted himself from ninth on the all-time franchise rushing list to seventh. Peterson now has 3,281 yards, which surpassed those of Michael Bennett
(3,174 yards from 2001-05) and Tommy Mason (3,252 yards from 1961-66). Next on that list is Darren Nelson, but that will take awhile since he rushed for 4,231 yards from 1982-89 and 1991-92.
Sunday's game also marked A.P.'s 17th 100-yard rushing game, tying him for second in franchise history with Chuck Foreman. Robert Smith's 29 100-yard games will take some time to surpass, but Peterson continues on a record pace.
In addition, his 180 yards were the fifth-highest total in team history. Peterson now owns four of the top five rushing days in franchise history, as well as two of the top three single-season rushing totals in just his first two seasons.
Favre may have garnered most of the spotlight heading into Sunday's game, but it became clear who the Big Daddy remains in the Vikings offense.
GAME DAY NOTES
Peterson's three touchdowns marked the third time in his career that he has rushed for three scores in a game. The other two were memorable as well, one being his then-franchise record of 224 yards against Chicago in 2007 and the other three weeks later when he set an NFL record with 296 yards against San Diego.
In eight career games against the AFC, Peterson has been held under 80 yards rushing just once (vs. Denver) and has topped 100 yards five times. In those eight games, he has rushed 180 times for 1,253 yards and 10 touchdowns – an average of 23 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown per game.
Favre had an efficient day, even though his numbers didn't wow anybody. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown before giving way to Tarvaris Jackson with 4:47 to play in the fourth quarter.
Favre spread the ball around to five different receivers. Chester Taylor led the way with five receptions, but for just 13 yards. Percy Harvin led the team with 36 receiving yards. Visanthe Shiancoe had three catches for 26 yards.
Missing from that list was Bernard Berrian, who was sidelined almost all of the preseason with a hamstring injury. He played Sunday, but didn't catch a pass.
Browns QB Brady Quinn made a couple of critical mistakes that cost his team 10 points off of turnovers, but he completed 21 of 35 passes for 205 yards and one touchdown. Jamal Lewis had a productive day, rushing 11 times for 57 yards and catching three passes for 47 more yards.
Nine different Browns players caught passes, led by TE Robert Royal with four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. But star receiver Braylon Edwards was held to just one catch for 12 yards.
Despite allowing some "garbage yards" to the Browns late in the game when many of the starters had been pulled, the Vikings dominated the statistics. They had more first downs (19-17), a better third-down conversion rate (6-of-14 as opposed to 3-of-12 for Cleveland), more total yards (310-268), more yards rushing (225-89) and the edge in time of possession (33:22 to 26:38). Factoring in sacks, Cleveland held a distinct advantage in passing yards of 179 yards to 85 for the Vikings.
The Vikings recorded four sacks Sunday – one each for E.J. Henderson, Kevin Williams, Ray Edwards and Letroy Guion (the Guion sack may end up being credited to Jimmy Kennedy on review). Henderson led the team with eight tackles, including seven solos, followed by linebacker Ben Leber with five tackles and one assist.
Credit needed to be given to Cleveland offensive left tackle Joe Thomas. He effectively neutralized Jared Allen, who had no sacks, no tackles and one assist.
It was a tough day for punter Chris Kluwe. Not only was one of his punts returned for a touchdown, a big problem in 2008, but after hitting a 51-yard punt on his first effort, his remaining punts went 29, 48, 27, 42 and 35 yards – with the 48-yarder being the one Cribbs returned for a touchdown. Kluwe's gross average was 38.7 yards, but his net was just 24.2 yards.
The special teams had a gaffe late in the game that will have the coaching staff a little upset. Punting from the Cleveland 35, Kluwe dropped a kick on the 7-yard line that the coverage team let bounce and roll into the end zone with three players converging on the ball, but nobody grabbing it. Instead of pinning Cleveland inside the 5-yard line, the touchback put the ball on the 20-yard line, where the Browns would eventually score.
The touchdown from Quinn to Royal with 28 seconds to play ended a seven-game drought in which Cleveland had not scored an offensive touchdown. The streak began last November after former Brown Jerome Harrison scored a touchdown against Buffalo late in the game. A total of 416 offensive plays were run between that score and the touchdown to Royal – a span of more than seven full games.
Browns legend Jim Brown was on hand for the game and had a chance to catch up with Peterson, who he calls the greatest runner in the game today and potentially the greatest of all-time. Brown remains the measuring stick for that. Through his first 30 games as a pro, Brown rushed 613 times for 3,206 yards and 36 touchdowns – an average of 104.3 yards per game. With his 180 yards Sunday, Peterson is now averaging 105.8 yards per game – and currently holds the NFL record for that pace.
The Vikings were called for just three penalties Sunday, while the Browns were flagged eight times.
Harvin had a quite a debut for himself and showed why he is so dangerous as a multi-talented threat. He returned three kickoffs for 99 yards, had a team-high 36 yards on three receptions, scored the only passing touchdown for the Vikings and took two handoffs for 22 yards – 11 yards on both.
Quinn showed a lot of inexperience on a fourth-quarter turnover. Flushed from the pocket, he tried to throw across his body and the ball came out of his hand as he pulled it back. Kevin Williams recovered the fumble, which would lead to a field goal to give the Vikings a 27-13 lead.
Antoine Winfield was in midseason form, delivering a big hit on rookie running back James Davis that knocked him out of the game, something a one-car accident for Davis on Saturday morning failed to do.
Favre's touchdown pass to Harvin in the third quarter was his first as a Viking and made Harvin the 51st different player to catch a TD pass from Favre in the regular season.
Brad Childress has been very aggressive with using the challenge flag and it could have come back to bite him in the second half of the game. On the first drive of the second half, Favre appeared to complete a 37-yard bomb to Sidney Rice down the left sideline at the 1-yard line. However, the official called it out of bounds. The Vikings would have challenged the call and likely had it reversed, but burned both of their challenges in the first half. The first challenge was on a fumble by fullback Lawrence Vickers, but the rule that allows such a challenge requires a clear recovery by the defense. While three Vikings were around the ball, the officials said there wasn't conclusive evidence of a recovery. The second challenge proved to be a good one. On what was ruled a 34-yard touchdown to Edwards, Cedric Griffin was called for pass interference. Replay showed that Edwards stepped out of bounds on contact, putting the ball on the 6-yard line instead of being a touchdown. The Vikings defense would stiffen and force a field goal, keeping the lead at 10-6 at the time, rather than being tied 10-10.
Benny Sapp left the field on a cart in the third quarter. His status wasn't immediately available, but he returned to the game.
At halftime, neither offense was clicking very well. The Vikings held a slim 90-89 advantage in total yards, while Cleveland held a time-of-possession edge of 15:51 to 14:09.
Favre completed 8 of 12 passes for 57 yards in the first half, while Peterson had nine carries for 25 yards and was also the leader in receiving yards with 18. Taylor had four catches for 16 yards.
For the Browns in the first half, Quinn completed 7 of 11 passes for 47 yards, while Lewis led all rushers with eight carries for 32 yards. Royal led all receivers with 23 yards on two catches.
Four of the Vikings' six offensive drives in the first half were three-and-out types that failed to produce a first down.
The Browns got a little cute near the goal line in the second quarter, running the Wildcat formation with Cribbs taking a direct snap twice from the 3-yard line. The two plays combined to produce just one yard and Cleveland had to settle for a field goal.
Darius Reynaud provided the Vikings with a huge spark early in the second quarter with a 36-yard punt return to the Cleveland 23-yard line that would result in a touchdown to give the Vikings a 10-3 lead.
The first quarter wasn't an artistic masterpiece. Favre completed 4 of 5 passes for just 10 yards, while Peterson carried seven times for 24 yards. Quinn completed 3 of 5 passes for 21 yards and Lewis led the Browns with two rushes for just eight yards.
The Vikings got the season off on the wrong foot when they tried an onside kick to start the game, having seen something on film that said a 20-yard pooch kick would work. It didn't and the Browns took over on their own 49-yard line and the short field that would lead to the game's first points.