It's a legitimate question, because A.D. hasn't been the A.D. that Vikings fans have been accustomed to. It was clear that when the Vikings added Brett Favre, the passing game would be receiving a significant upgrade from what it had in Peterson's first two seasons. But logic would also dictate that with a better passing game Peterson would face fewer "eight-in-the-box" defenses than he saw in his first two seasons. That hasn't been the case.
Peterson led the NFL in touchdowns with 18 this season, but there has been something missing in his game. Although they have extremely little in common in terms of running style, Peterson has been compared to Hall of Famer Barry Sanders in one key respect. Both have a history of having a lot of carries that gain very little, but then pop a run of 50 yards or more to make up for it. Peterson hasn't had that this season.
In his first two seasons, Peterson played in 30 games. In those games, he topped 100 yards rushing 16 times. This season, he has just three 100-yard rushing games and none in the last eight games. It isn't that the offense hasn't given him enough chances. In those eight games, he has had 24 or more carries five times. In seven of them, he has averaged less than four yards a carry.
One of the keys that was placed on beating Dallas Sunday was trying to keep their pass rush at bay by pounding Peterson in the ground game. To that end, the Vikings realized that objective. Peterson ran 26 times. The following are the yardage numbers gained by Peterson on his 26 carries on Sunday: 3, 1, 4, 4, 11, 3, -1, 0, 0, 8, -1, 4, 1, 2, 0, 2, 6, 3, 6, 0, 0, 3, 0, 0, 5, -1.
The numbers speak for themselves. Five carries of five yards or more, 21 of four yards or less, 13 of one yard or less, 11 of no yards or worse. That speaks volumes.
If the Vikings are to win on the road at New Orleans on Sunday, the team is going to need Peterson to be the Adrian Peterson that fans have come to expect – spoiled, if you will, much in the same way they were spoiled by Randy Moss making the improbable not only possible, but anticipated.
Is it the offensive line that is the problem? Is it an injury that we will find out about only in next summer's training camp? Those are the two most logical suspects. It would seem A.D. has had far too many carries in which he runs into the back of his own offensive linemen where a hole is presumably supposed to be. If Peterson is in fact injured and limited, that won't change between now and Sunday. If the primary reason is blocking, that can be corrected or, at a minimum, changed.
If the Vikings are to go on the road, silence the crowd at the Superdome and come away with a win, having Peterson put up the kind of the game the great NFL running backs provide in big games will be necessary. He wasn't needed to win against Dallas. He very well might be against the Saints.