Adrian Peterson and a stingy defense have been staples for the Vikings during head coach Brad Childress’ tenure in Minnesota and they’ve been nothing short of sensational over the past 2 seasons in leading the franchise to back-to-back division titles and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
And it was Peterson and the defense that paced the Vikings in the 1st half of Sunday’s game at New England. Peterson had 68 yards rushing and 1 TD on 18 tries while the Vikings defense held New England QB Tom Brady and Co. to just 107 net yards and 5 first downs in the opening 2 quarters. The Vikings also held a 9-minute advantage in time of possession and had they converted on 4th and goal from the 1 at the end of the half it would’ve been 14-7 in favor of Minnesota.
But it was that New England goal line stand in the waning seconds of the 1st half that turned the tide in favor of the home team. Instead of trailing 14-7 or 10-7 (had the Vikings kicked a FG) at halftime, the Patriots went to the locker room tied at 7 and clearly made some adjustments that led to a resounding 2nd-half performance and ultimately a win.
Peterson’s numbers at the end of the game were solid, no doubt. He finished with 92 yards rushing and the TD on 25 attempts and he also added 5 receptions for 50 yards. But New England held him to just 24 rushing yards in the 2nd half compared to his 68 yards in the opening half. And of course the goal-line snub at the end of the half was a huge turning point in the game. Peterson prides himself on short-yardage rushing and he’s a terrific back in those circumstances, but it didn’t go the right way on Sunday.
The Vikings defense stumbled in the 2nd half as well. New England’s offense was stifled and had it not been for a dropped INT by Madieu Williams, the Patriots may not have scored a point in the first 2 quarters. But the 2nd half was a different story. New England racked up 255 total yards, 13 first downs and 21 points. Especially disheartening was that the Vikings struggled with missed tackles and they allowed RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis to record 108 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 13 attempts in the 2nd half.
A couple of key Vikings defenders summed it up well to the Star Tribune after the loss.
“Obviously we didn’t tackle,” DE Jared Allen said. “I think he was hit at the line of scrimmage almost every time. If you don’t tackle people in this league they’re going to do stuff.”
CB Antoine Winfield described what happened on the game-clinching drive in which Green-Ellis tallied 62 rushing yards on 7 attempts by saying, “They came out the last drive and pretty much ran the ball down our throat up the middle. That’s not something that’s happened around here the last couple of years.”
Winfield is right, that hasn’t happened to the Vikings defense much since Childress took the helm in 2006. The Vikings ranked #1 against the run from 2006-08 and then ranked #2 in that category last year. For the Vikings to make a run in the second half of the season, they’ll need that defense to return to form. Something that is entirely possible.
Also key to a second-half run will be Peterson, who is in the midst of another excellent season. The NFL’s best RB is also the current rushing leader with 776 yards on the season. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 110.9 per game, excellent numbers.
Yes, the loss to New England on Sunday was a tale of 2 halves for Peterson and the Vikings defense. But if Peterson continues to perform that way he has through 7 games and if the defense makes a few corrections, the Vikings have a chance to make the 2010 season a tale of 2 halves, with the second half a lot better than the first.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen
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