Tony Dungy, former Vikings defensive coordinator and current NFL analyst for NBC, reportedly suggested that Adrian Peterson was giving a "tell" to defenders, saying that the way he uses his eyes to scan the defense before the snap tells the defense if it is a run or a pass.
Vikings coach Brad Childress was asked about that possibility and downplayed it, but he admitted that it's hard to see Peterson's eyes when he looks at plays on coaching tape.
"I have heard that said before. Typically what you end up telling a quarterback and a running back – or anybody that is standing back there that the defense is looking at – that you look at the defense the same every way," Childress said. "You scan the defense left to right and front to back end and try to do it the same every time. Does that mean your head is not on a swivel? Not coaching tape-wise, you certainly can't see eyes. You can see head. I can see the stripe on the helmet so I can tell tentatively where it is going. I would be lying to you if I could tell you where his eyes were directed."
Childress admitted that offensive players are always looking for "tells" in players' stances, and linebackers might be looking for something from Peterson as well.
While offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said running backs coach Eric Bieniemy teaches that point with Peterson, the running back said he hadn't heard he was doing it.
"I haven't seen it," Bevell said. "I don't sit on the other side of the ball and have a good look at his eyes. I know it's something that coach Bieniemy has talked to him about, because it has been brought up. If there's anything that we're doing that may help somebody else, we try to mention it … so it's something that we can talk about."
Linebacker Ben Leber said he hasn't noticed anything with Peterson, but he did say that defenders are always looking for a advantage.
"Eyes are something that it's hard to pick up on film, so either he must have really been doing it if that was the case or it's something they talked about during the game," Leber said. "We're always looking for little cheats here and there – is this lineman sitting a certain way, is the fullback always looking where he's going to block? Certainly if those things do come up during the game, we'll tell everybody and everybody can key in on it."
"I don't know of any tells (Peterson) has, run or pass."
Peterson wasn't the only player being accused of tipping off defenses.
Former NFL offensive tackle Tony Boselli reportedly said on Westwood One's radio broadcast of Sunday night's game that the Arizona Cardinals saw an indicator in Bryant McKinnie's stance at left tackle. As it turned out, that point was moot because McKinnie admitted he had a tell when he was in a three-point stance but he used a two-point stance during the Cardinals game because of the crowd noise.
"Being in two-point the whole game, I don't do it the same way. They couldn't really get a read off of me being in the two-point," McKinnie said. "We went back and watched the film, and I was pretty balanced in my two-point. But I know for the future when I'm not in the two-point, when I'm in down point, for like home games and stuff like that, I know what I've got to do, so I can work on that today. So tell (Boselli) thank you very much for the advice. I'll be working on that this week."
Said Childress: "There was a point where it was almost predominately a two-point stance (for McKinnie) if that is in fact the tell that he was speaking about."
McKinnie said he used the two-point stance on Sunday night in case the crowd noise caused him to be late getting into his movement at the snap of the ball. In a two-point stance he could be quicker to "kick back and react."
Offensive lineman Artis Hicks explained that there are certain times linemen don't care if they tip off a run look.
"In certain situations, I think you have to adjust your feet a certain way," Hicks said. "If it's third-and-1 short-yardage situation, nobody's going to get in a (pass protection) stance. You're going to get in a power stance to come off the ball and push somebody back. But if it's a first down, we watch film on ourselves and that is a big part of it. We want to make sure we're not giving tips to the defense whether we're going to pass or run based on our stance or having a lot of weight on our hands or not."
It may have been fortunate timing for Boselli to broadcast that. McKinnie said that was the first time this year that he used predominantly a two-point stance. He already knew he had a "tell" in his three-point stance, but he didn't think any defenders knew about it.
"I kind of knew I was doing it, but I didn't think anybody picked up on it. When they said something about it, I said, ‘OK, I've got to stop doing it.'" McKinnie said. "It was something I did, a pass play I was adjusting to. It was little things I knew I was doing, trying to adjust myself, but no one ever made it public like that. But when they made it public, I said, 'OK, I guess they caught on too, so I've got to stop it.'"
Surprisingly, McKinnie said he doesn't think his offensive line coaches ever realized it.
Of course, the Vikings could use that to their advantage as well.
When McKinnie first came into the league as a first-round draft choice with the Vikings in 2002, he said he was in a two-point stance a lot. But being in a three-point stance allows him more momentum when working to push a defender in the running game.
Either way, he and Hicks appreciated the advice.
"Boselli was a great offensive tackle in this league for a long time, so to get a comment like that from him, that's a great tip for Big Mac to go back and review the film and make sure he's not doing that," Hicks said. "If it is true – whether it's with Big Mac or any of the rest of us – it will be a good thing if we can identify it and fix it. I'm sure the coaches are going to be looking at it too. Nobody likes to get called out like that, but if it is something that he is doing and it can be fixed, it's better to know early and change it than to let it keep happening and other teams get an advantage on us."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.