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Tuesday, October 22, 2013
On Peterson's struggles, Vikings' imbalance

By Ben Goessling

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In his last two games, Adrian Peterson has 23 carries for 90 yards.

Again: That's in his last two.

Want a sense of how out-of-character this stretch has been for the reigning NFL MVP? On Monday, he took the field a year to the day after he started his streak of eight straight 100-yard games last season. In that time, Peterson had been under 90 yards in a single game twice. His totals on those days? Eighty-eight yards against Cleveland on Sept. 22 and 86 against Houston last season on Dec. 23.

Adrian Peterson
New York Giants safety Michael Johnson tackles Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in their Week 7 game at the Metrodome.
There are plenty of theories as to what's wrong with Peterson, and the running back offered a couple after Monday's 23-7 loss to the New York Giants. He said the Vikings as a team need to be more physical, and coach Leslie Frazier seemed to corroborate that Monday when he said the Vikings need to create a better push in their run blocking for Peterson.

But Peterson also hasn't been as effective at gaining tough yards this season. He has averaged just 1.8 yards per carry after contact in the past two games and had an average of 2.2 after contact in the Vikings' first four games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Peterson averaged 2.9 yards after contact last season, and while it was unrealistic to expect him to do that again, it's a major difference between this season and last year, if you're looking for one.

But the most perplexing thing Monday night for many Vikings fans -- and somewhat for me -- was how little the team used Peterson. He carried just 13 times for 28 yards, logging only five second-half carries in a game where the Vikings were within 10 points until the fourth quarter and were never more than two possessions away from tying the score.

The Vikings make no bones about the fact they're built around Peterson. In some ways, they wear that as a badge of honor at a time when the league is bent toward the passing game. So to see them let Josh Freeman fling the ball 53 times was startling.

Frazier pointed out that many of Freeman's attempts -- 30, in fact -- came with the Vikings down two scores in the fourth quarter. But he admitted the Vikings got away from the run once they weren't able to get anything going with Peterson.

"Some of it had to do with how well they were playing run defense and creating some situations we thought we could take advantage of in the passing game," Frazier said. "We knew they were going to put a lot of people in the box, like everybody does at the line of scrimmage [against Peterson]. There were some moments where we were close to getting something done, and it didn't happen. We probably could be more balanced from a numbers standpoint. So that's on us."

Peterson has had some moments this year when he's tried too hard to turn each run into a big gain, probably costing himself yards as he tries to go off-script from his blockers, and Frazier said the Vikings occasionally talk to him about staying true to his reads of where he has room to run. Peterson did that fairly well Monday, Frazier said, so some of the blame has to fall on his blockers for failing to open things up. But it was odd to see the Vikings, who are discombobulated at quarterback, give their best player so few chances to help Freeman.

Speaking of Peterson, his full interview with Lisa Salters, talking about the recent death of his 2-year-old son, airs tonight at 7 p.m. ET on "E:60." You can check out a two-minute preview clip of the interview here.