Minnesota Vikings’ fans rejoiced over the return of Adrian Peterson in Week 15. He turned out to be a non-factor in the embarrassing loss to the Colts.
We should have seen it coming. Adrian Peterson triumphantly returned to action and put up a 6 carry, 22-yard performance in arguably the season’s worst game. No one was sure how the Vikings would reinsert Peterson into the lineup or manage his workload. They wasted no time forcing him the ball from their first possession.
The Vikings cannot revert to the habit of leaning on Adrian Peterson no matter how lost the season is. His six carries in Week 15 don’t look like much, but they certainly killed the Vikings’ first couple of possessions. Those who watched the game know the Colts had already won by Minnesota’s second punt.
The obligation to feed Peterson the ball is a handcuff the Vikings haven’t missed over the last 12 games. We missed his presence and his stardom, but nobody missed watching Peterson run into holes that don’t exist. To think he would return and magically save the offense was hopelessly optimistic.
Forgotten was Peterson’s 19 carry, 31-yard day in Week 1 at Tennessee. Also forgotten was his pre-injury, 12 carry, 19-yard day vs Green Bay. He wasn’t a threat in either game and yet the Vikings managed a 2-0 start. It’s also worth noting the offensive line was healthy in both games, thus ruling out any “poor blocking” excuses.
Few honestly cared for Adrian Peterson’s return by the time Minnesota reached 5-0. Backed by a top-ranked defense, the Vikings were winning games through the air. Watching Sam Bradford spread the ball around was something we hadn’t experienced since 2009. Go back further, and we hadn’t seen such passing success since Randy Moss was in his prime.
For too long, the success of each Vikings’ season has hinged on the legs of Adrian Peterson.
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There was a long period where “All Day” transcended the NFL. Yet as we drooled over his highlight reel runs, little did we realize how one-dimensional the Vikings had become. In Peterson’s last few 1,000-yard seasons, the Vikings’ offense ranked 31st (2015), 23rd (2013), and 31st (2012) in passing yards. We enjoyed two playoff appearances during those few years, but neither time was Minnesota able to advance beyond the wildcard round.
Top offenses in today’s NFL are fueled by high-octane passing. The Vikings weren’t “high-octane” but for a short period, they were winning games through the air. For a limited time, the Norseman didn’t look so one-dimensional. Of course injuries continued to pile up, protection broke down…and here we are.
If the Vikings pay Adrian Peterson beyond 2016, it’s for what once was and not what he can do moving forward. It’s a harsh reality that he’s on the wrong side of 30 and due an $11.75M base salary and $6M roster bonus in 2017. Renegotiating is an option if Rick Spielman is interested in shelling out more guaranteed money.
Minnesota had something going at 5-0, something to really build off while moving forward. That something shouldn’t include handing the ball to a 32-year old running back over 300 times in a year. It pains me to say it, but the right move for the Vikings is moving on from Adrian Peterson at season’s end.