Two words that for a long time have visited true fear upon Chicago football. Not necessarily so anymore. But that is not necessarily good news, not by any means.
The Minnesota Vikings running back exploded on the Bears for 224 rushing yards, 128 return yards and three touchdowns as a rookie back in 2007. The last time the Bears saw Peterson, on Dec. 1, 2013, Peterson put 211 yards on the Bears in a 23-20 Minnesota win.
But that was then. And the NFL of “now” is not exactly the same one that he left one week into the 2014 season due to circumstances surrounding a case of child-abuse allegations. The NFL game is changing, nowhere more evident than in Minnesota.
In his absence the Vikings have moved away from an AP-centered offense under coordinator Norv Turner and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the second of their two No. 1 picks in the 2014 draft. The spread offense of so many colleges has become a bigger part of the NFL game, including in Minnesota. Peterson is lining up more often without a blocking fullback than was his custom for so many years and results have begun to be questioned.
On 29 of his 45 carries over the past two weeks, Peterson was stopped for 2 or fewer yards, according to Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Peterson carried 19 times against Detroit and was held to 2 or fewer yards 14 times.
“It’s a big difference, but I knew that coming back,” Peterson said. “I knew it last year before week one with coach Turner, what he presents. I’ve been adjusting to it.”
But the bigger change may lie within Peterson, no longer the dominant back of his prime but also not demanding to be.
“My philosophy is whatever,” he said. “They brought coach Turner in for a reason because he has a great mind, he has a great scheme. Of course, he wants to lead the team to a championship as well. My whole approach is to do my job, so whatever they ask of me, just try to do it to the best of my ability. If that’s sacrificing, then I’m willing to do that.
“I’m all about trying to win a championship. If that’s getting 3 or 4 yards and keeping the chains moving, finishing with 80 yards and Teddy finishes with 300 [passing] yards and we win, I’m satisfied with that because I’m trying to get a ring.”
But here is the considerably bigger problem now: It does not seem to matter whether an opponent stops Peterson. The Vikings are still winning.
Peterson ran for 134 and 126 yards in Minnesota wins against Detroit and San Diego in Weeks 2 and 3. Then the Kansas City Chiefs held Peterson to 60 rushing yards and 2.3 yards per carry, and lost. The Lions kept him under 100 yards (98), and lost.
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The Vikings have won four of their last five games. The only loss came at Denver, not because the Broncos shut down Peterson, but because they sacked Bridgewater seven times.
The overall, which has seen the Vikings have eight No. 1 picks over the past four years, has allowed the Vikings to tilt away from being AP-centric.
“I think Mike [Zimmer, coach] and their organization have done a good job,” said coach John Fox. “They’re a young football team, good young talent. It’s a team game.
“I know Adrian is a great player and we recognize his accomplishments and what he’s done. But they’re playing good ball in all three phases. They’ve won some close games, they get turnovers in defense. This is the ultimate team game and they play good team football.”