Vikings' Peterson finding little running room
EDEN PRAIRIE -- The first half of Adrian Peterson's rookie season was like none that ever came before it. He broke nearly as many records as he did ankles, racking up yards and highlights at a dizzying and dazzling pace. The No. 7 overall draft p...
EDEN PRAIRIE -- The first half of Adrian Peterson's rookie season was like none that ever came before it.
He broke nearly as many records as he did ankles, racking up yards and highlights at a dizzying and dazzling pace.
The No. 7 overall draft pick topped 200 yards rushing twice in a four-game span -- the first rookie ever to do that in a single season -- and broke Jamal Lewis' single-game rushing record with 296 yards in a victory over San Diego on Nov. 4.
That historic performance gave him a staggering 1,036 yards in his first eight games, putting him on pace to shatter Eric Dickerson's rookie record of 1,808 yards and become the first running back to top 2,000 yards since Lewis in 2003.
In the last three weeks, however, opposing defenses have said enough is enough.
San Francisco, Chicago and Washington have crowded the line of scrimmage with eight or nine players, refusing to let some 22-year-old kid -- even one as physically gifted as Peterson -- beat them.
Peterson has averaged just 36 yards a game over the past three, including 27 on nine carries in Sunday night's devastating loss to the Redskins.
"I can't remember the last time I saw a seven-man front," Peterson said after the 32-21 loss. "But coming into the game, you know that and you know you have to fight for those yards and eventually something will open up."
It's been an obvious adjustment by opposing defenses in the wake of Peterson's enormous early success.
"Well, he's not a secret anymore," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "We're going to have do some work in terms of, if they're going to have an extra guy in there, we're going to have to do a few different things in terms of running the football and throwing the football.
"It will probably come back to the quarterback, wide receivers and the tight ends being able to beat people and show that you're going to beat them that way, as opposed to running the ball."
The Redskins dared Minnesota to do just that Sunday night. Defensive mastermind Gregg Williams put four linebackers in the game with four down linemen in the first quarter, and Peterson managed just 4 yards on five first-half carries.
"That was our whole thing this week, we were going to make them beat us throwing," Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot said. "Our guys up front, they showed up. All the credit goes to them. They hit them all. When you stuff them like that and they try to run play-action, it just doesn't matter."
Young quarterback Tarvaris Jackson had his second straight miserable game. He threw two interceptions -- that's five in the past two weeks -- and was unable to find open receivers downfield to force the Redskins to back off the line of scrimmage.
"Yeah, you have to pass out of it," Childress said on Monday. "You can do a little bit better job of formation and (getting) people into things. But they were committed."
The Vikings turned over the ball three times in the first half to fall behind 22-0, making it nearly impossible to continue giving the ball to Peterson, who had only four carries in the second half.
"Whenever you become one-dimensional, it is hard to win and it is harder to get the offense going," Jackson said. "But teams have been doing a pretty good job of stopping our line. We used to rush for 200 yards a game, but we have just got to step it up in the passing game."
Peterson has rushed for 3, 78 and 27 yards in his last three games and appeared to be pressing at times Sunday night when the big runs weren't coming.
"I don't know that he's frustrated," Childress said. "He just wants to contribute very much in a very bad way."
Minnesota's struggles in the passing game make it a virtual certainty the Vikings will see a similar game plan next week in Denver.
The Vikings could have clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Redskins, but now they need to win at Denver and have the Redskins to lose at home to a Dallas team that likely will be resting most of its key players, getting set for the postseason.
"Just point blank, we are a team so we just can't depend on the run game all the time," Jackson said. "We have got to be able to pass the football."