Vikings running back Adrian Peterson says he could have done more
By: By Brian Murphy, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Superior Telegram
GREEN BAY -- Adrian Peterson snarled at the question, glared at the interviewer and defended the honor of his crumbling team, which the Vikings' star running back is fortifying with superhuman production and humanity.
Thirty minutes after walking off Lambeau Field, having run in vain for 210 yards in a 23-14 loss to the Packers on Sunday, Dec. 2, Peterson was asked whether the Vikings simply do not have the horses to keep pace with NFC North stalwarts Chicago and Green Bay.
"Do we not have the horses? Did you not see the game today? Did you not see how that game ended?" a defiant Peterson said, his voice rising an octave with each sentence.
"Turnovers, penalties. That's how we lost the game. Guys fought today. We lost because we gave it to them. That loss was on us today."
The convenient target was quarterback Christian Ponder, whose two red-zone interceptions demoralized the Vikings and turned up the flame under his seat.
Peterson made it his business to buttonhole Ponder in the locker room and give the second-year quarterback a pep talk before facing the cameras and nitpicking himself for not doing enough.
Yes, the superstar who averaged 10 yards on 21 carries, who recorded his third 200-plus-yard game, whose 82-yard touchdown dash was the longest in a career of superlatives, identified two second-half runs that should have been game-changers.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, his 48-yard gain over left end set up Minnesota at the
Packers' 12-yard line. Peterson rationalized he should have been able to step out of Tramon Williams' tackle and score instead of being driven out of bounds.
Two plays later, Ponder made a terrible across-the-body throw which Morgan Burnett intercepted in the end zone.
"I take that to the end zone, that could have changed the game. There's a lot of ways to look at it," Peterson said. "Unfortunately, sometimes when it happens at the end, you throwing interceptions, you kind of have the finger pointed at you. It shouldn't have come to that."
Later, Harrison Smith's interception gave the Vikings the ball at their 6-yard line. On the initial play of the series, Peterson went over right guard for 6 yards but believed he blew an opportunity for another monster run.
"First play was a '32-lead.' If I'm just a second more patient, I'll take that to the crib. That's a 94-yard run," he lamented. "I look back on that and say that could have changed the game as well as a (48-yarder) to the left side."
The NFL's leading running back and pointed self-critic made sure to offer encouragement for his embattled quarterback.
"The one thing I really hit on was the way he played, the passion and will that he showed. I told him we could win with that," Peterson insisted. "Things happen. You want to protect the ball, of course. But I was just pressing, 'Hey, continue the way you played with the effort, we're going to be OK.' "
Vikings receivers were so ineffective, and the team desperate to generate something downfield, Peterson lined up wide left and ran a sideline route only to have Ponder underthrow him.
Peterson ran for 224 yards against the Bears on Oct. 14, 2007, and 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers three weeks later.
He became just the seventh NFL running back since 1960 to rush for 200 yards or more in a game and lose, according to Pro Football Reference. Thomas Jones of the New York Jets was the last in 2009. Buffalo's O.J. Simpson endured the distinction over consecutive weeks in 1976.
"Adrian Peterson is an outstanding football player, and we respect him," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Maybe we respected him too much."
Peterson has gained 1,446 yards in 12 games and is on pace for 1,928. He is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. And though it is standard to note Peterson had reconstructive knee surgery last Dec. 30, he is rendering that career-threatening procedure moot.
"What he's doing this year is ridiculous," defensive end Brian Robison said.
Peterson's brilliance on the field Sunday was topped only by his magnanimity off it. Lest there was any doubt No. 28 is leading the Vikings in every way possible.
"He wants to win as much as anybody," coach Leslie Frazier said. "That is the only accomplishment he is concerned about. The fact that he ran for 210 yards is important but not as important to him as the fact that we didn't win. That is the beauty of Adrian Peterson; he is a total team guy."
Follow Brian Murphy on twitter.com/bmurphPiPress.
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