Vikings: Toby Gerhart gets his chance

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
8:40
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Toby Gerhart has talked on numerous occasions this year, with surprising candor, about how he feels like he might be auditioning for his next job with another team whenever he gets a chance to play for the Vikings this season. There's little reason for Gerhart not to feel like that, not with Adrian Peterson signed through 2017, but it's rare for players in 2013 to speak so openly about a change of scenery.

The former Heisman Trophy runner-up probably feels like he can be a featured back somewhere, though. He's shown it in the past, when he ran for 531 yards in 109 carries in 2011, and his performance on Sunday might have provided Gerhart another way to sell himself when he becomes a free agent after the season.

[+] EnlargeToby Gerhart
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsToby Gerhart made the most of his limited opportunities Sunday, averaging 11.4 yards per carry on eight attempts.
He ran for 91 yards on eight carries on Sunday, spelling Peterson as the Vikings ran 43 times for a season-high 232 yards in a 26-26 tie with the Green Bay Packers. Peterson carried 32 times for 146 yards -- the only time in his career he's carried more was in the Vikings' Week 17 win over the Packers last season -- but it was Gerhart doing most of the work on the Vikings' game-tying field goal drive in overtime. He carried four times on that drive, collecting 33 yards as the Vikings moved to the Packers' 12.

His first four carries came in the third quarter, after Peterson came out of the game with five minutes left. Gerhart gained 58 yards on those four carries, setting up the last points the Vikings would score before overtime.

"Adrian got banged up on a play and I was able to come in and get into a little groove," Gerhart said. "We started going back and forth a little bit, and it felt good."

It would seem unlikely the Vikings will use Gerhart in anything resembling a tandem with Peterson, but the reigning NFL MVP is playing with a strained groin. With five games left in the season and the Vikings now guaranteed to finish with a losing record, it might make sense for them to give Gerhart a little more work while reducing Peterson's exposure to defenses.

Then again, there might be a little part of the Vikings that doesn't want to help Gerhart audition for too many teams. They value him as a pass-blocker and a third-down back, as much as he'd like to be the No. 1 option somewhere, so it wouldn't be out of the question that they'd try to re-sign him if the price is right.

He showed again on Sunday what he can provide -- whether that's for the Vikings or someone else.

"Adrian got a little fatigued, and he [Gerhart] did a terrific job," coach Leslie Frazier said. "He does a great job every time he gets in the ballgame. To get our running game going the way we did, it was big for our team."

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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