Change in running philosophy works

The Vikings changed their running philosophy against the Cincinnati Bengals and it yielded the most yardage and highest average for Adrian Peterson in a month, and it came against one of the league's best rush defenses. See what they did, where they had success and what they said about it.

In their previous two games against Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals, the Vikings were forced to change up their personnel on the offensive line because of injuries. On Sunday, they changed their philosophy.

Against Arizona and Chicago, Artis Hicks started for Anthony Herrera at guard, and injuries to both offensive tackles against Arizona caused a brief shuffling of the line. Facing Cincinnati, the Vikings got Herrera, their starting right guard, back following a concussion three weeks prior.

"Everybody was back, but we all just knew we had to take pride in it and go out there," Herrera said of the performance against the Bengals. "Every time you play against a physical team, the D-line, the offensive line has to show up."

Vikings coach Brad Childress said his team was beat physically against the Cardinals, but they were the victors on Sunday, and it may have been because of a change in philosophy from the offensive coaching staff.

"It always comes down to execution, but we wanted our (running) backs to be able to run up and down before they ran side to side," Childress said of the game plan on Sunday. "It lets our offensive linemen really set their pads and be able to thump off the football. We just thought that was important to kind of play to our strong suit. So … within our opening plays, that's something that we wanted to do."

They wanted to do it and they did. Convincingly.

Against Cincinnati, Adrian Peterson rushed 26 times for 97 yards. It was only a 3.7-yard average, but it was still much more effective than the previous week, when he averaged 1.5 yards trying to run outside more.

Facing the Bengals, 35 percent of Peterson's runs were defined as going up the middle, and the Vikings clearly had the most success there, averaging 5.2 yards per carry running behind center John Sullivan.

According to the official play-by-play, another 31 percent of Peterson's runs came over the right or left guard, where he averaged 4.8 yards per carry. When it came to running over the tackle or around the end, Peterson averaged only 2.2 yards on nine runs.

"We're not really an outside zone team, so we went back to our inside zones where it's just straight-up football. It's not positioning and things like that. It's just the guard's will against the (defensive) tackle's will," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "Just man against man, smash-mouth football."

Despite the Bengals entering the game with the second-ranked rushing defense in the league, the Vikings felt they would have more success running inside, and it's clear by the breakdown of the stat sheet that was the case. They had the most success running behind Herrera, where Peterson averaged 6.5 yards on four carries. The guard said the physical nature of his first game in three weeks was everything he expected.

"Everything and more. We showed up, they showed up and we just kept going at it," Herrera said.

It wasn't that way against the Cardinals the previous week. Peterson rushed only 13 times for 19 yards and none of those runs were credited by the play-by-play statisticians as going over right guard. He was credited with three runs in the middle for four yards, five rushes over the tackles for minus-1 yard, and five rushes around the end for 16 yards.

"All those outside plays look good if you down-block them, like the one we tossed to Adrian and he goes 15 yards," Childress said. "It was just something that we wanted to do. We have a lot of respect for (the Bengals') defensive front and their linebackers and they are great side-to-side players, so we wanted them to go, as I say, up and down with the football."

Of course, success in the running game begets more opportunities, and Peterson doubled the number of rushes from one week to the next, and more than quintupled his yardage.

Shiancoe said the Vikings started to get away from their running game in the previous weeks.

"I do feel like that. We started to turn into Rams 2000, '98. We were putting up about 8,000 yards a game. We got away from that a little bit," he said. "They started putting all these people in the box to stop Adrian versus the Cardinals."

Against the Bengals, the Vikings just decided to slice into the middle of that box and found a physical victory inside.


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