Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson started his chase for 2,500 yards off with a bang, followed by a stutter.
Peterson made headlines during the offseason for what some described as a ludicrous goal while also wanting more touches in the passing game, as NFL.com’s Kevin Patra reported. It appears that Peterson was not satisfied falling 9 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record less than a year after ACL surgery; he might have his eyes set on Darren Sproles’ single-season all-purpose yards record of 2,696 yards too.
Sunday marked the regular-season opener for all teams but the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens, which officially kicked the season off on Thursday night. Peterson and the Vikings were among the teams to suit up Sunday, giving Peterson his first of 16 games to accomplish the goals he set for himself this offseason.
Peterson opened the season with a respectable stat line: 93 rushing yards on just 18 carries, 18 receiving yards and three touchdowns against a Lions team that has a reputation for physical play from its front four that make it difficult for quarterbacks and running backs. However, if Peterson wants to achieve his goal of 2,500 yards, he’ll need to do better than 93 yards; with 15 games remaining, Peterson will need to average just over 160 yards-per-game.
That 93-yard total becomes troubling for Peterson, however, when its pointed out that on his first touch of the season, he ran for a 78-yard touchdown — that’s the bang. The stutter? In his next 17 carries, Peterson averaged just 0.88 yards-per-carry and his team lost the game.
A small portion of that can be attributed to the absence of suspended fullback Jerome Felton, who helped Peterson tremendously last season.
However, the largest portion of the blame falls on Peterson’s reputation. Teams know the Vikings are a run-first offense and are loading the box for Peterson, a prediction that Dickerson made following Peterson’s announcement of the 2,500-yard goal. ESPN NFL Nation Minnesota Vikings’ blogger Ben Goessling confirmed that fact with some help from ESPN Stats and Info: the Vikings saw eight men in the box on 21-percent of their offensive plays on Sunday, compared to the league average of 4-percent.
What that numbers says is that it will be much more difficult for Peterson to put up the 200-yard performances he’ll need to reach 2,500 yards. However, it also means that Vikings’ opponents will be daring quarterback Christian Ponder to throw the ball and give him plenty of space on the field to do just that.
The effect of Adrian Peterson extended far beyond the run game on Sunday, and it will continue to do so for the rest of the season. It’ll be up to Ponder and the rest of the Vikings offense to capitalize on that if the team intends on making it back to the playoffs in a tough NFC North division.