MINNEAPOLIS—Adrian Peterson didn’t get the NFL single-season rushing record on Sunday, but he may have won the league MVP award at the Packers’ expense.
For the second time this month, Peterson was an absolute beast against the Packers, rushing 34 times for 199 yards and getting the backbreaking runs the Vikings needed to pull out a last-second, 37-34 victory at the Metrodome.
“He’s an all-timer, and sometimes you have to live with that,” defensive lineman B.J. Raji said.
That’s not to say the Packers accepted their performance against him, as he almost single-handedly lifted the Vikings to a playoff berth. As Peterson is known to do, he broke several tackles and turned nothing into something more often than not even when the Packers appeared to have him stacked up.
Peterson came up nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s 1984 record of 2,105 yards, but he did become just the seventh player to eclipse 2,000 in a season and he had a strong hand in every one of Minnesota’s seven scoring drives.
“A lot of the runs he broke early, we had him bottled up at the line of scrimmage and he would find a way,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “There’s nothing technical about that. It’s about what we were doing in second grade playing football – run to the ball and wrap up.”
Peterson rushed for one touchdown and caught a TD pass, but when the Packers review the film, two of his runs in particular will be tough to watch.
The first came late in the third quarter, with the Vikings leading 20-17 and facing second-and-27 from the Green Bay 35 after a Peterson fumble was overturned by replay and a personal foul on the Vikings put them in long yardage.
Minnesota came out in a running formation, as though the offense was going to settle for a long field goal, and Green Bay countered with its base defense. Peterson then blasted through a hole on the right side for 28 yards, stunningly moving the chains in one play and setting up his own TD catch five snaps later.
The other pivotal run came on the final drive. With the score tied at 34 in the final minute, the Vikings had second-and-10 on the Green Bay 37 and again looked content to try a long field goal. But Peterson, against what Raji called a short-yardage defense, bulled through the left side and 26 yards later had rookie Blair Walsh in chip-shot range to win the game on the final snap.
“Dom (Capers) was in an awesome defense for it,” Raji said. “Obviously we didn’t do what we needed to on that play. We had our opportunities.”
The other defensive breakdown the Packers will lament came four plays before Peterson’s last run. On third-and-11 from the Minnesota 27 at the two-minute warning, the Packers had a great chance to get the ball back with a chance to win. But Vikings QB Christian Ponder, against a three-man rush, found an opening in the eight-man zone coverage and hit Michael Jenkins along the sideline for 25 yards. The Packers never got the ball back.
“They got it in the hole,” said safety Morgan Burnett, who was one of three players surrounding Jenkins on the play. “We just have to keep playing and not let this linger over into next week. The season starts over starting next week.”
The problem is it starts with Peterson again for a third time in six weeks, as the Vikings will come to Lambeau Field for an NFC Wild Card game next Saturday night. He gained 409 of his 2,097 rushing yards in the two meetings with the Packers, who will have to find a way to slow him down to advance in the postseason.
Green Bay defenders insisted after the game they’re looking forward to another chance against Peterson.
“I think I speak for everybody when I say yes,” Raji said.
It’s the only attitude the Packers can take. They have six days to move on, or move out.
“Anytime a team does that to you, you want to find a way to fix that,” Hawk said. “I don’t want to call it redemption or whatever, but the playoffs are a one-game season every time you step on the field. We’re looking forward to it.” Additional coverage - Dec. 30