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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Adrian Peterson feels Vikings found ‘winning formula’ on offense

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have lost three of the last four games, but count Adrian Peterson as one of the many that feel good about how the offense was called and executed in the 23-20 loss at Arizona.

After two of those losses, Peterson has vocalized his displeasure as offensive coordinator Norv Turner has leaned away from the run — and Peterson — when the Vikings fell behind by multiple scores to the Packers and Seahawks. Following his most recent remarks about being ‘outplayed and outcoached,’ the Vikings gave Peterson his highest percentage of playing time in 14 games under Turner.

And, with Peterson involved in all formations, they came within a play of tying or winning the game despite the Cardinals shutting him down in the second half to 11 carries for 13 yards.

“I think my voice is always heard,” Peterson said Thursday. “I think a little emphasis was put on to it after the Seattle game, more emphasis…Last week, looked like Teddy had an outstanding game, best game of the season. I remember coming off the field and seeing coach Turner, I was like ‘This right here is a winning formula.’ Even though that didn’t result in a win, It was good to be able to see so many guys involved and still be productive in the pass game and the run game. So, leave things in coach Turner’s hands, he’s doing a great job and we’ll do what he asks us to do.”

As an offense, the Vikings have struggled to consistently produce, ranking 25th in yards per play and 26th in points per game.

They’ve kept Peterson on a snap count this season to “make sure he’s fresh throughout the entire game,” Turner said, and that’s shown as he’s dominated defenses in fourth quarters, most recently in Oakland and Atlanta. But Peterson wasn’t subbed out as often against the blitz-happy Cardinals in Arizona, where quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for a career-high 335 yards and a season-long 9.3 yards per throw.

Turner said he doesn’t see much of a connection between Peterson staying in the game and Bridgewater thriving, but coach Mike Zimmer said he liked including Peterson in passing situations as he always draws attention from defenses.

“We’ll probably continue to want more,” Zimmer said. “When he’s in there, he’s a threat. One of the first things you do before you make the calls are, “who is the back?” so you can determine run-pass kind of things.

“So the more he’s in there, the more it helps your passing game as well.”

Heading into the Arizona game, Peterson was coming off a career-low 20 snaps for a game in which he finished healthy. On a short week for a Thursday night game, Turner said the Vikings decided to lean more on Peterson in all situations.

“If you guys remember after the Seattle game there were some questions on how much activity he had, how many carries he had so he was probably pretty fresh,” Turner said. “We thought we’d take advantage of that situation. He’s capable of doing all of it.”

Sticking with the run despite a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter was a tangible factor that worked well for the Vikings. Zimmer praised the “balance” on offense, which was evident in Arizona when Turner called three consecutive handoffs to Peterson to start a fourth-quarter drive when trailing 20-10.

The Vikings also alternated between Peterson run and Bridgewater pass on the game-tying, 88-yard touchdown drive, including a play-action pass to fullback Zach Line that picked up 24 yards on 1st and 20.

“I think every situation is different,” Turner said. “I think that when we fake to [Peterson] and throw the screen, yeah it helps. It’s just depending on, I would say, the play. I think you all try to make too much out of it. I think it’s about going out and executing, performing and everyone doing their job.”

Finding a solution

Of the six teams Alshon Jeffery has thrice faced, he’s torched the Vikings more than the others.

Jeffery’s playing status for Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium is unclear as he’s been limited in practice this week with an illness and calf injury. Should he play, the Vikings might alter the plan from the last meeting when Jeffery caught 10 balls on 15 targets for 116 yards and a touchdown.

In their three matchups against Chicago since Zimmer was hired, the Vikings’ approach has differed. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadowed Jeffery in the Vikings’ 13-9 season finale win last year, holding him to two catches for 34 yards. In the two games Rhodes hasn’t shadowed Jeffery, he’s averaged 10.5 catches and 125 yards.

It’s not that cut and dry, as Jay Cutler found Jeffery for a 21-yard touchdown in the Vikings’ win at Chicago this season — on a rather spectacular throw and catch over Rhodes.

“You have to have enough bullets in your gun so you can change things up,” Zimmer said. “We go into training camp, preseason, we practice all those things, all those things we might use throughout the course of the season. Sometimes we adjust the week we’re playing, make some adjustments based on routes they run, formations they give us, a lot of different things. We have a basic, I don’t know how many different plays, 15 little deals we do to try to practice in training camp. Because you know you’re going to face great players.”

Plugging the gaps

The Vikings lead the NFL with three punt/kick returns for touchdowns, and they’ve done so despite a host of injuries on both offense and defense.

Those injuries remove options for special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who has seen some of his special-teams players elevated to starting roles, like center Joe Berger, or suffered season-ending injuries, like safety Antone Exum Jr. and linebacker Audie Cole.

“The guys that take it seriously, the guys that pay attention, you have to try and keep them motivated when they’re on the practice squad,” Priefer said. “When they are on the scout team, I tell them I watch your tape too and I correct their technique on the scout team. It’s important because sooner or later they’re going to be playing for you.”

Different angles

Defensive end Brian Robison has helped the Vikings deal with injuries to their defensive tackles by rotating inside as part of their pass-rushing line.

Robison, 32, shifts to defensive tackle on longer third downs, with rookie Danielle Hunter taking his spot at left end. Generally Tom Johnson or Sharrif Floyd stays in the game at tackle as well.

“It’s a little bit more push in the pocket,” defensive coordinator George Edwards. “[Robison] has got a little bit more space to work on a guy that really is not an offensive tackle that’s going to widen you outside. We’ve been able to take his skill set, he’s embraced it and worked inside, created more space inside for himself, getting more push in the pocket, so I think that not only helps us, but I think that also helps him.”

‘Settle for’

Adrian Peterson leads the NFL with six 100-yard rushing games this season, but don’t ask him if he takes pride in that.

Peterson, who tied O.J. Simpson with his sixth 200-yard outing last month in Oakland, said he’s not settling for the century mark. Peterson currently leads the league 1,251 rushing yards and could be the first running back at age 30 or older to claim the rushing title since Curtis Martin in 2004.

“I take pride in 200-yard games,” Peterson said. “That’s what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about 200, 250. You’ll take 100 if that’s what you have to settle for.”

Peterson has two of his six career 200-yard games against the Bears.

Instead…

Nose tackle Linval Joseph returned to practice on Thursday for the first time since injuring his foot in the Vikings’ Nov. 29 win at Atlanta.

Sharrif Floyd, who has moved from three-technique defensive tackle to nose for Joseph, jokingly said this week he’d give Joseph one of his toes so he could come back and resume his spot over center.

Zimmer offered up a different solution.

“Hell, I’d give him one instead of Sharrif’s,” he said.

The post Notebook: Adrian Peterson feels Vikings found ‘winning formula’ on offense appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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