Peterson redeems himself

November, 9, 2008
11/09/08
8:59
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- Adrian Peterson found the appropriate word Sunday to describe his feelings after botching a fourth-quarter play he had lobbied hard for.

"Sick," Peterson said.

Then he found the appropriate qualifier.

 
  Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire
 Vikings running back Adrian Peterson scored the game-winning touchdown against Green Bay.

"I was sick for the moment."

Indeed, the illness didn't last long. Inspired by his earlier failure, Peterson single-handedly carried the Vikings to the winning touchdown in their 28-27 victory over Green Bay. Peterson touched the ball on five of Minnesota's six plays on its final drive, finishing with a 29-yard touchdown run that put his team ahead for good with 2:30 remaining.

A few minutes earlier, Peterson had sprinted toward Vikings coach Brad Childress during a timeout. Trailing 24-21 at the 9:31 mark, the Vikings faced a fourth-and-1 from their 41-yard line. Childress initially sent out punter Chris Kluwe -- a reasonable decision, considering the line of scrimmage and the time remaining -- but pulled him back after Peterson implored him to go for it.

Peterson, however, fumbled on the ensuing carry, leaving the Packers in position for a field goal that gave them a six-point lead.

"It was tough," Peterson said. "First of all, talking coach into going for it. And then actually having the first down. And then fumbling. ... But we made big plays when we needed to, and that's what it came down to."

But Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell never thought twice about entrusting Peterson with the ball on the final drive. His score pulled the Vikings (5-4) into a first-place tie with Chicago in the NFC North while handing the Packers (4-5) their fifth loss in seven games.

"The one thing that's great about Adrian is he is a competitive son of a gun," Bevell said. "You can tell from the way he runs."

Peterson finished the game with 225 all-purpose yards, including 192 in the ground, and now leads the NFL with 1,015 yards on the season.

"He's always got the eye of the tiger," Childress said. "It doesn't make any difference. That's what you love about him. You talk about corners having short-term memory and we grind on him. ... But he's so hyper-competitive. It kills him. [He] drops the ball on the ground, but you just know you're going to get it from him every time you hand it to him. And he wants to win, badly. He doesn't care how."

The Vikings were in position for Peterson's heroics in part because of a remarkable display from defensive end Jared Allen. Playing with a restrictive harness on his right shoulder and a pain-killing injection coursing through his body, Allen sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a safety and inspired a dominant pass rush that limited Green Bay to 110 net yards passing.

Allen was considered doubtful for the game as late as Saturday, but he woke up Sunday with limited swelling and a strong desire to test out the shoulder in pre-game warmups. The injury is considered a third-degree sprain, the most serious category.

"You can't make a grade three any worse," Childress said.

So Childress gave him the go-ahead to try, and Allen -- who signed a six-year, $74 million contract in the offseason -- said he felt a strong sense of obligation to play against a division rival.

"This is what I love to do," Allen said. "I think it's more of a pride issue [when you think of] some old-time players. Guys like Jack Youngblood playing with a broken leg, guys with busted noses and arms and shoulders, and I kind of think of myself as an old-school player.

"That's really the reason I [did] it. Hopefully one day, I'll inspire somebody: 'He toughed through it and played and stuff like that.' And to show people that we're not all about the money. At least I [am that way]. I do this because I love to go out there, I love to compete, play my guts out there and have games like this, this feeling."

The injury was particularly uncomfortable at the start of the game, Allen said, and Childress asked him on several occasions if he wanted to continue. Eventually, he said, "adrenaline kicked in." But by my count, there were at least at least two plays when Allen was unable to extend his right arm when he was otherwise in position to tackle Green Bay tailback Ryan Grant.

Afterward, I asked Allen how high he could lift his right arm. Demonstrating with the left -- apparently soreness had set in on the right -- he raised it parallel with his shoulder.

"Hey, if I sack them, I don't have to worry about batting balls down," Allen said, laughing.

Allen's shoulder certainly didn't affect his speed, and on the safety he simply sprinted past Packers left tackle Chad Clifton. Overall, Allen was credited with a sack, a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and one quarterback hurry. Film review might ultimately give him partial credit this week for another sack on a play where he and teammate Brian Robison simultaneously converged on Rodgers.

Clifton and the Packers had shut down the Vikings' pass rush in the team's Sept. 8 season opener, allowing Rodgers to complete 18 of 22 passes. Sunday, however, the Vikings rattled Rodgers from the start, sacking him four times and hurrying him on six other plays. Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier blitzed his linebackers extensively, getting sacks from Chad Greenway and Napoleon Harris.

Rodgers acknowledged he "took some shots" after throwing for a season-low 142 yards.

"Today was probably a combination of us not doing our fundamentals the way we know how to," Rodgers said, "and me probably holding the ball too long. They did a great job, and you have to give them credit."

Rodgers looked uncharacteristically rattled for large stretches of the game, most notably when he fumbled into the end zone in the second quarter. Rodgers grabbed the ball, but instead of trying to run the ball to safety, he wildly threw the ball toward the sideline.

Although tight end Tory Humphrey was in the vicinity, officials ruled intentional grounding -- for the first of two safeties on the afternoon -- because of what they termed an "unnatural" throwing motion.

"With us getting a couple of safeties on him, I think we did rattle him," Vikings safety Darren Sharper said. "The one thing about that is that he's the kind of quarterback that even if he does get rattled, he finds a way to bounce back. He made some good throws. Good thing we kept the pressure on him all day long."

The Packers nevertheless had a chance to win after taking over possession at their 41-yard line with 2:15 remaining. But after narrowly missing an interception on their first play, the Packers called consecutive running plays while allowing the clock to wind down.

Ultimately, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy left himself with a 52-yard field goal attempt for place-kicker Mason Crosby. Although Crosby had converted two of three attempts this season from at least 50 yards, he was wide right on Sunday's attempt.

Afterward, McCarthy faced a series of questions about the decision to let the clock wind down without pushing farther downfield. Ultimately, it seemed McCarthy did not want to risk a sack pushing him out of field goal position altogether. On a third-down-and-7 before the field goal attempt, Rodgers checked down to receiver Donald Driver for a three-yard reception.

Even Childress said he was "surprised" to see Packers run the ball and added: "I like my chances with my run defense when people get into two tight ends and want to pound the ball for positioning."

Said McCarthy: "I was fine from the distance that we kicked it from. We were being smart there with our play selection but still we were trying to get the first down."

The loss was McCarthy's first to the Vikings in five games since he and Childress assumed their respective jobs. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf presented Childress a game ball afterward. Childress would be wise to cut that pigskin in half. One end should go to Peterson and the other to Allen.

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