Peterson's brilliance not helping Vikes' air game


Peterson's brilliance not helping Vikes' air game

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) When Adrian Peterson lay prone on the Washington turf last December with a shredded left knee, even his most ardent supporters would have had trouble believing he would reclaim his standing as the NFL's best running back just 10 months later.

His remarkable return to prominence has been one of the feel-good stories of the season. It's also shaking the very foundation of the Minnesota Vikings' offensive philosophy, and one of the longest-held tenets in football: that success on the ground will open things up in the passing game.

Peterson is getting better and better every time he steps on the field this season, more closely resembling the powerful cutback runner he was before tearing two ligaments against the Redskins late last season. It's been an incredible recovery, punctuated by three straight 100-yard games, including a breath-taking 144 in the first half alone last week against Seattle.

He finished with 182 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks, following up a 123-yard effort against Tampa Bay and 153 against the Arizona Cardinals. He leads the NFL with 957 yards rushing and 1,107 yards from scrimmage, accounting for nearly 37 percent of the Vikings' total offense.

For decades, the belief in the NFL has been that a successful run game will set up big gains down the field by getting safeties to creep up closer to the line of scrimmage and create one-on-one matchups outside. Even in this day and age of pass-happy offenses, the Vikings have stayed committed to that approach.

While Peterson has run better and better each week, the pass offense has been stuck in a downward spiral over the last three weeks. Christian Ponder threw for 58 yards against Arizona, was able to pad his stats in garbage time against Tampa Bay, then managed just 63 yards in the loss at Seattle.

``Usually when you run the ball as well as we're running it, you get some easier route combinations that you can have success with because of the eight- and nine-man fronts that we're getting,'' coach Leslie Frazier said Thursday. ``But it hasn't materialized for us. We're trying to figure that out and trying to capitalize on how well we're running the ball, which creates a lot of single-safety situations for our offense to see.''

The problems are many. Receivers are having difficulty creating separation, Ponder has been woefully inaccurate with his throws and the Vikings (5-4) have struggled at times to pick up the blitz and keep their quarterback protected while losing three of their last four games.

Put quite simply, opposing defenses are not viewing the Vikings' downfield passing game as a threat. That means they're not biting on play-action fakes as hard as they did early in the season, not having to commit a safety to double-teaming any of their receivers and therefore are able to turn loose extra pass rushers to put as much heat as possible on Ponder, who has looked skittish in the pocket.

``It just comes down to needing to execute and be more balanced on offense,'' center John Sullivan said. ``Obviously we're committed to running the football. We're going to do that in every game we play. Theoretically it should open up the passing game. That hasn't been happening. Our focus this week is trying to get the pass game going while continuing to do what we've been doing in the run game.''

Peterson vowed to be ready for Week 1 of the season, but there were plenty of skeptics. He scored two touchdowns and rushed for 84 yards in the opener against Jacksonville, but it was apparent he was missing just a little bit of that top gear that made him so special before the injury.

He grinded out some games against Indianapolis and San Francisco before topping 100 yards for the first time at Detroit, but was still looking for the big breakaway runs that were a hallmark of his first five years in the league. They've started to come in the last two games. He scored on a 64-yard run against the Bucs, then ripped off a 74-yarder while averaging 10.7 yards per carry against the Seahawks.

``It's a little frustrating,'' Peterson said after the game. ``You just see what you can do and see how you can improve and go from there. That's going to be our focus point; establish the run and try to be more productive in the pass game. It's obvious we didn't have a big game passing. But we'll work on it.''

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said he is re-examining the routes his receivers are running, the protections being assigned to the offensive line and running backs and everything else to try to get the passing offense going.

``We're not at all pleased with our production. We need to get back on track,'' Musgrave said. ``Everybody can sense that. We're very disappointed. Not at all discouraged, but very driven and determined to get it back on track.''

It could be made more difficult this week against the Lions if star receiver Percy Harvin is unable to play because of a sprained left ankle. He was still hobbling around Thursday and appeared to be a long shot to practice Friday. Peterson missed practice as well with an illness, but is expected to play against the Lions.


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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 21, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

How the addition of Alexander affects the Redskins' DB depth chart—Adonis Alexander was brought into the NFL about a week and a half ago and in five days he’ll be on the practice field in Richmond. How much will missing OTAs and minicamp hurt him in comparison to, say, his former Hokie teammate Greg Stroman? I think that the plan is for this to be a “redshirt” year for Alexander to learn. But that was supposed to be the plan for Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chase Roullier last year and both ended up playing key snaps. 

Can the Redskins defensive line live up to its potential? Many NFL fans don’t appreciate the value of having a good defensive line. Redskins fans are not in that group because they have seen what you get when you try to build a defensive line with over-the-hill veteran free agents, low draft picks, and undrafted players. Fans will value the talent, youth, and depth on the 2018 D-line.  

10 Questions in 10 days: LB depth chart—This is another area where the Redskins have not invested much in recent seasons. At least this year they stepped up and re-signed starters Mason Foster and Zach Brown. They are the present. Are Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons the future? 

The pass rush must continue to be a strength for the Redskins—With the picture at the cornerback position is somewhat murky right now, the pass rush will be critical, especially in the early going. The outside linebackers lost a key reserve, putting the burden on Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan to continue to get pressure on Ryan Anderson to take a leap forward in his second season. 

Tweet of the week

Well, this tweet did sort of stir things up as did some of the things that Cousins said in an article by Dan Pompei on the Bleacher Report. The thing about Twitter is that there is no room for nuance. I was labeled a Kirk “hater” by some. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. On multiple occasions, I urged the team to sign him long term and highlighted the positive aspects of his play. 

But this thing about not having a “platform” to lead always struck me as a cop-out. Cousins talked about it during some press conferences while he was here. The length of your contract should not prevent you from embracing a leadership role. You’re getting paid to lead, just do it. Few in leadership positions in business or in the military know where they will be a year from now. They embrace the role while they have it and Cousins should have done the same. 

The fact that I don’t like this one aspect of Cousins doesn’t mean that I don’t like him overall. He’s a good quarterback and I think he will have success with the Vikings. I think that the price got to be too much for the Redskins and the decision to move on to Alex Smith was sound or at least the best they could do after it became apparent that he was not going to sign here. But it’s not all one or the other. It is possible to see the positive and negative of Cousins. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler


Mike Sellers, whose seven receiving touchdowns in 2005 were the most by a Redskins running back since the merger, was born on this date in 1975.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 5
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 19
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 42

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 50 days. 

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Vernon Davis pulls off memorable proposal in Ocean City

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Vernon Davis pulls off memorable proposal in Ocean City

Vernon Davis has long been a fan favorite in the D.C. area since his University of Maryland days. The 34-year-old is almost always well-dressed and respectful to the media. 

More recently, he has been outspoken about his interest in acting after his football career. A true renaissance man who just so happens to be a force in the National Football League. 

In April, NBC Sports Washington ran into Davis at the Team USA Awards where he was serving as guest speaker. 

He took his smooth nature to a whole new level Tuesday while vacationing in Ocean City, Md. with his girlfriend Kayla. 

Dressed in all white on the beach, Davis proposed in an epic way. 

The best motivation I ever had. #shesmyrock

A post shared by Vernon Davis (@vernondavis85) on

Check out the whole video produced below. We won't spoil it for you, but there were skydivers involved. Take a look: 

Davis will suit up for his third season with the Redskins when training camp opens July 26 in Richmond.