Minnesota Vikings – Adrian Peterson Doesn’t Have to be Great

Every game the Minnesota Vikings have is mostly about Adrian Peterson. How many yards he gets, how good is he after the surgery and whether or not he deserves to be the MVP. For once, it didn’t really matter, because Peterson didn’t have to have an explosive day in order for the Vikings to get closer to a playoff spot.

What was it? The running game set up a lot of things, but it looked like the Houston Texans focused their entire defensive effort on Adrian Peterson and stopping the running game. That was true on the other side as well, as the Vikings held the Texans to only 34 yards on 16 carries. Arian Foster, who was taken out because of an irregular heartbeat, had only 15 yards on 10 carries. When the Texans can’t establish the run, Matt Schaub isn’t usually good enough to get over that handicap. It resulted in the first game (a 6-23 loss) in which the Texans didn’t score a touchdown since 2006.

Christian Ponder wasn’t great, but was efficient. He did what he needed to with the opportunities that were presented to him – throwing for a touchdown early on to give the Vikings the lead, and not turn the ball over, which is quite an achievement for the young quarterback, who has 12 interceptions this season, most of them in recent games.

The rest of the credit goes to the defense. Matt Schaub couldn’t get anything going, finishing with 18-32, with the Vikings constantly getting to him. He was sacked three times and hit five more times, as the Texans focused on stopping Jared Allen but left too many gaps in their offensive line and struggled with the more camouflaged schemes and blitzes the Vikings presented to them.

And the numbers show it in more than just Schaub – The Texans were accounted for only 187 total yards. They covereted only 1-11 on third downs. Their defense, all in all, had a decent day, managing to contain Peterson and seeing too much of a threat from Ponder. Still, without any kind of offense except for a couple of field goals, the game was practically not winnable.

It was Christian Ponder in the running game that enjoyed all the focus on Peterson. AP finished with 86 yards on 25 carries. He gained 23 yards after contact on 25 rushes, his lowest yards after contact per rush (0.9) in a game in over three years. He entered the game averaging 3.1 yards after contact per rush, better than anyone else in the league. It now leaves him needing 208 rushing yards against the Packers next week to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. He rushed for 210 last time the two teams met.

So Peterson got stacked, while Ponder was free to have his way with the ball. His passing was mediocre, as usual, but he did add 48 yards on 7 carries. The Texans kept crowding the box and gave Ponder a lot of holes and space to work with, especially on play action, late to react to anything that didn’t involve Peterson.

Now it’s all about beating the Packers. At 9-6, they’re in a good spot. Adrian Peterson’s record breaking quest might be very hard to accomplish, but the playoffs suddenly look a lot closer.

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