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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Peterson again fumbles away opportunity to help Vikings win in playoffs

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS – Blair Walsh’s miss of a 27-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Vikings’ 10-9 playoff loss to Seattle on Sunday, means the veteran kicker is going to take much of the criticism for the defeat.

That shouldn’t be the case.

Adrian Peterson needs to also receive a good portion of the blame for what happened at TCF Bank Stadium.

The All-Pro running back, and NFL’s leading rusher in 2015, played a significant role in the outcome and not in a good way. In a game in which he rushed for only 45 yards on 23 carries, Peterson’s crucial (and all too familiar) miscue came in the fourth quarter after he made his second reception of the afternoon.

The Seahawks had pulled within 9-7 on Russell Wilson’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, when the Vikings got the ball back at their own 22. Teddy Bridgewater’s pass to Peterson resulted in a 5-yard gain. On second down, Bridgewater again went to Peterson and this time Peterson gained 8 yards before being engaged by linebacker K.J. Wright. Safety Kam Chancellor came in and managed to strip the ball from Peterson’s possession.

The ball was recovered by defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin at the Vikings 40-yard line and, seven plays later, Steven Hauschka kicked a 46-yard field goal to give Seattle a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“It was tough,” Peterson said. “To have the first down, and my mentality is to try to scratch for extra yards, that was one of those times when I should have double arm wrapped it. After that it was just praying that the defense would give us another opportunity, and they gave us another opportunity. I look back on that and say, ‘If I don’t put that ball on the ground, they’re not able to get that field goal and take the lead.’ That’s something that will haunt me throughout this offseason.”

It won’t be the first time Peterson has been haunted by a playoff loss.

Peterson, then in his third season, was charged with two of the Vikings’ six fumbles, and lost one of them, in the overtime loss at New Orleans in the 2009 NFC title game.

Fumble issues, of course, have been an issue for Peterson for much of his nine seasons in Minnesota. He had seven fumbles in the regular season this year, losing three of them. That was his highest-total since he lost six of the seven fumbles he committed during the regular season in 2009. Not including playoffs, Peterson is at 38 fumbles, with 22 lost, in his career.

The Vikings needed three things to happen Sunday in order to upset the Seahawks and erase the embarrassing 31-point defeat Seattle put on Minnesota in early December in TCF Bank Stadium.

One, the defense had to play a superior game. That happened. Two, Bridgewater had to be better than he was against the Seahawks or last week in the regular-season finale at Green Bay. That happened. Three, Peterson needed to have a big game. That didn’t come close to happening.

Peterson expressed his anger with the coaching staff following that first Seattle loss, because offensive coordinator Norv Turner abandoned the run game early. Peterson finished with only 18 yards on eight carries. Despite the fact he never got into a rhythm on Sunday, Peterson had 14 carries in the opening half and nine in the second. His 45 rushing yards equaled his third-lowest total of the season.

Sunday’s game marked the sixth time since the 1970 merger that the NFL’s rushing champion faced the top-ranked run defense in the postseason, according to ESPN.

“These guys do a good job,” Peterson said when asked why the Seahawks had so much success against him. “After the game, (Seattle safety) Earl Thomas came up to me and was like, ‘Hey man, I have so much respect for you because each game you know that teams are coming in and are focusing on stopping the run, and you still come and continue to chop. That’s why I love and respect you.’

“So we knew it was going to be that today. They were going to come in with the number one defense, the number one scoring defense, and we just kept fighting away. The offensive line did a great job of creating opportunities. Some I didn’t take advantage of, and some I was able to take advantage of. It wasn’t good enough today.”

On the Vikings offensive series after Peterson’s fumble, he took the opening handoff for a yard but then did not see the ball on second or third down. He found himself watching the following Vikings’ drive from the sideline, replaced by Jerick McKinnon but returned when Minnesota got the ball back with 1 minute, 42 seconds to play.

Peterson played a key role in the Vikings’ success this season and getting the franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. His 1,485 rushing yards was the third-highest total of his career and came after he was essentially suspended for a season as he dealt with a child abuse charge.

But when the Vikings needed Peterson the most, he was unable to respond and ended up making a critical mistake.

“You know it is definitely a hard pillow to swallow,” Peterson said. “Look back ver this game and there’s missed opportunities on our behalf. Our defense played outstanding. Offensively, we gave ourselves a shot towards the end even with all the adversity throughout the game. We had an opportunity and we just weren’t able to come through with it. A lot of people, and even Blair, has put the blame on himself. Throughout this season, without him, there are a lot of games we would have lost.”

The same exact statements could have applied to Peterson on Sunday.

The post Zulgad: Peterson again fumbles away opportunity to help Vikings win in playoffs appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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