Lions vs. Vikings: Arif Hasan's Notes on the Game (Offense)

Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Back from his sabbatical, Arif takes a look at how the Vikings offense outdueled one of the best passing teams in the NFL.

The Minnesota Vikings found themselves in familiar territory in Week 10, entering the fourth quarter with a slim lead that had been whittled away in the third. Facing a Lions team well known for its prowess late in the game, the Vikings needed to put points on the board in order to keep the Lions at bay.

Unlike in 2011, the 2012 Vikings responded to this call with three scores, capping a 34-point performance with a nice field goal to put the Lions three scores behind. Even giving up a touchdown with two minutes remaining didn't put the game at risk, as the game had already been put away halfway through the fourth.

The Vikings accomplished this with a remarkably balanced offensive performance, calling 40 passes to 30 runs in normal play, but playing heavier than they have before.

Incidentally, this is being published late because... of the bye week. Yea. Definitely so that you all have something to read during the bye week.

Happy Sunday.

Offensive Philosophy

Playcalling

I'm skipping the philosophy section I normally include here. First, because nothing particularly caught my eye as innovative and worthy of highlighting and secondly because the philosophy here is not much more interesting or different than the game against the Titans, where Ponder's average depth of target was deeper than it has been for the rest of the season and they took advantage of the off coverage to carve the Lions in the passing game.

The playcalling for the Vikings has long been a gripe for fans following the much-maligned offensive coordinator. Bill Musgrave has shown a remarkable ability to design effective and innovative plays, while also installing more complex offensive sets and taking advantage of the self-scouting process. In the meantime, his ability to handle the complex process of handling the evolution of an offense over the course of a season has not extended to an ability to calling a play with the down-and-distance markers in mind.

By all means, handling the duties of an offensive coordinator is a difficult process, and cognitively demanding—very few people have the skillset to do it—but otherwise intelligent people can lose the forest for the trees easily. Although in this case, it seems more precise to say that Musgrave is losing the trees for the forest, handling the macro-level duties of coordinator well, but losing games in the smaller details.

There's a good chance that I'll eventually write an article that Bill Musgrave is underappreciated, but I will say now we would probably have won at least one more game if he knew how to call plays in third down situations and with a clock running down. In this game, however, I didn't find too many issues with his playcalling... at least, relatively speaking.

In only three or four situations did I find myself assured that Musgrave make an objectively bad play call, which is much better for him than usual.

Generally speaking, Musgrave took advantage of the talents available to him, and I saw more receivers running open in good positions in this game than in several of the past few games. Part of this has to do with the awful Detroit secondary, but much of it has to do with good scouting and precise deployment of the specific skills of the Vikings players.

Once again, the Vikings offense performed best against intermediate zones and off man coverage, something that Detroit specializes in.

Musgrave called a decent game, and once more took advantage of the Vikings' tendencies to throw opponents off-guard, including the play that got John Carlson his target and catch. Near the end of the third quarter in a closed formation with two tight ends, Carlson moved across the formation on a play action, as if to kick out (as the playside tight end has done in countless situations), but instead leaked out into the flat for an 11-yard gain, taking advantage of a defense that bit hard for the run.

That said, third down was an issue, as per usual.

Why_would_you_do_this_even_medium

This particular play was pointed out to me on twitter, but I do not remember by who. It was either Kyle or @VikingsFanPage, and they point out something fairly obvious—there are five eligible receivers, and it appears that five of them run routes that break at five yards. As you can see in the corner, it is third down, and the distance to convert is 16 yards from the line of scrimmage.

That's not quite an accurate portrayal, as Devin Aromashodu is running a delayed slant that would take him past the down marker if given time, but while it is correct to criticize Ponder for throwing too early (the pocket is collapsing, but not in a way that is worrisome), there is only one route that the Lions have to worry about, and it takes time to have an effect. A deep comeback or a post from one of the inside receivers (preferably on the same side as Aromashodu instead of opposite have been a good route to add to give quick and late options to the quarterback.

Also, a designed run by Ponder on 3rd and 7 on a rollout at the end of the game struck me as naive and lucky. I have never been a fan of strategies that rely on the stupidity of the opponent, whether in football or in the activities I coach. It's not sustainable, and you'll get burned more than lucky underestimating them. In this case, it seemed designed to draw the flag (which would explain why Ponder slid instead of dove).

Still, generally speaking, there was much more good than bad, and the Vikings were right to take advantage of the fact that there wasn't much film on Jarius Wright or a good sense of his capabilities in the NFL.

Formations

Now, that all said, I would be OK, never seeing this again:

I_hate_this_formation__two_upback_22__medium

The Vikings ran more two tight end sets than they have in any previous game, and the "22"—2 running backs and 2 two tight ends—featured heavily. Unfortunately in eight of the thirteen snaps out of the 22 personnel package, we saw something similar to the GIF above. Rhett Ellison motions in, staying just behind the line of scrimmage (one of a few positions on the field that the versatile "H-back" is expected to excel in), and there are two lead blockers for Adrian Peterson.

The Vikings motioned Ellison to be the second lead blocker in front of Jerome Felton nine times, and they ran it every time. In fact, out of the 22 package, they ran it twelve of thirteen times, the other being a dead play due to a delay of game penalty. One of the four instances of the 22 package outside of the H-back motion was the designed run by Ponder, detailed above.

When Adrian Peterson was otherwise averaging 7.3 yards per carry, this formation averaged 4.2 yards per run. When taking out the big 61 yard run and the big 21 yard run, the Vikings were averaging 4.2 yards per carry outside of the formation and 2.25 yards per carry with it. The success rate of the formation was 33% and the success rate of other Peterson runs was 44% (a success is defined as getting 40% of required yardage to convert on first down, 60% on second down and 100% on third and fourth down).

To me, it is a fundamentally inefficient play that overrelies on the Power concept—having more men at the point of attack than the opponent—without any of the benefits. Nearly every time, Ellison drags a linebacker from outside the box into the box, obviating any numbers advantage and complicating the play.

While I have no problems with complicated schemes or complex plays, adding complexity to something that can be simple only increases the likelihood of failure. Adding an additional blocker at the cost of an additional defender is almost always a loss for the offense, because it only adds to the number of things that could go wrong at the point of attack without increasing the chances that something could go right. If every blocker makes their block, it works (like Peterson's 21 yard run out of this formation), but that is true of any formation.

And just like any other formation, when one blocker messes up, the play dies. It increases the likelihood that a blocker's mistake has an impact, and increases the impact of that play failure.

Oversimplifying is almost always preferable to overcomplicating, nearly regardless of activity. This is an example of adding complexity without any discernible benefit. It also serves as a huge run alert for the defense, increasing the likelihood they run downhill into the gaps to prevent a run. While this theoretically could set up a good play action for the next game (relying on self-scouting to take advantage of one's own tendencies), there would only be two reliable receivers on the play. One tight end (because at this point, only Rudolph can be considered reliable among the tight ends) and one wide receiver (as a result of the package).

I don't think it's a reliable package to fake out of.

Including the 22, the Vikings operated out of a two tight end formation 31 times out of the 70 meaningful offensive snaps they took, and twice with three tight ends. The favorite individual package was once again the "11" package with three receivers, which was on the field on 27 of those snaps. The Vikings only ran the ball 5 times out of that set, and ran play action three times out of it.

The 11 package was successful 37% of the time, the 12 was successful 56% of the time (half of plays out of 12 were runs, and half of the runs were successful), 22 was successful 21%, and 21 was successful 45% of the time. Overall, 38.6% of the Vikings plays were successful.

Players

Christian Ponder

Ponder had a good game, and I noted 11 "good" plays and 6 "bad" plays, the most imbalanced game in his favor that I've recorded yet, and once again we saw a better Ponder in the second half than the first. While his stat line isn't extraordinary (6.9 yards per attempt for 221 yards), he made few mistakes (0 interceptions and 75% completion rate), and was the victim of three drops—the highest drop rate in the NFL in Week 10.

There were a number of qualitative improvements Ponder made, too. He clearly responded to pressure much better, only holding on to the ball too long on one occasion, and stepping up to avoid edge rushers. In fact, his most impressive play wasn't the deep ball to Wright, but the fifth play of the first drive of the 3rd quarter (12:51 remaining).

Both Charlie Johnson and Matt Kalil give up pressure, to Nick Fairley and Kyle Vanden Bosch respectively. Ponder hitch steps (or "crow hops") a few yards forward to avoid the pressure and gives himself a clear passing lane in the process. His options for open receivers are an outside over the shoulder throw to Jerome Simpson or a high inside ball to Kyle Rudolph. He makes the slightly easier throw (a little too high) as Rudolph breaks free of Erik Coleman. The ball clatters off of Rudolph's hands, but everything in that process is exactly what Vikings fans have been pining to see in their starting quarterback. It showed poise, good decisionmaking, safe play, and an ability to read coverages.

Naturally, there were a number of plays where he had poor decisionmaking, particularly when it comes to Jerome Simpson, who was open often, especially in the seam between the cornerback and safety zone. He did often throw to the best available receiver, but he was far from perfect at identifying it. It's clearly an improvement from before, however.

Aside from that, Ponder still doesn't read the field before throwing, and will very often make half-field reads. This obviously restricts his capabilities, and the Lions (as well as other teams) are willing to sell out and start shifting their zones as soon as he drops back to pass. This was perhaps his biggest problem, and he missed open receivers because of it—picking the wrong half of the field.

Somewhat puzzling is that he would occasionally choose the obviously worse half to focus on, with only one receiver running to the down marker of the two eligible receivers on that half of the field. Regardless, it was his biggest limiter in the game. It is unlikely that he will repeat his performance under pressure consistently in the near future, so his two biggest problems—pressured passing and reading the field—are things to watch for in the near future.

On the other hand, one of the other big problems with his development that seems to be slowly going away is his ball placement. Earlier, particularly at the end of his rookie season, Ponder was unable to put the ball in places to help make plays, even if he was able to hit the receiver.

In this game, he did well in ball placement, with notable errors on passes to Kyle Rudolph and Stephen Burton (both of whom dropped the ball and are more to blame). He did a much better job leading receivers, and Jarius Wright could have done well to adjust to the ball to give himself more yardage—his adjustment was partially to blame for not getting the touchdown on the deep ball, but ball placement on deep balls is not really an issue at this stage.

Offensive Line

Matt Kalil had a great game again as a pass blocker, but was mixed once more as a run blocker. While he didn't often lose his defender once he locked on. When moving forward to engage the blockers in the run game, he's been effective, but lateral movement isn't as great. Incidentally, while everyone is correct to laud him for trailing Peterson on his 61 yard run, he was able to release because he couldn't hold the block on DeAndre Levy for very long. Mind you, blocking was nearly perfect on his play, so I'm not saying his blocking was bad... it was just the "least good," which is why he was able to follow Peterson into the end zone.

Kalil has been doing a better job in area blocking as a pass protector and only had 3 miscues all game, none of which were due to scheme confusion. He was able to recover one of the miscues and maintain protection, too, which speaks to his quickness and determination. He does need to improve as a run blocker, but does understand the fundamentals of the different run blocking assignments the Vikings gave him, but he still has communication issues—on occasion, he and Charles Johnson won't always move off the double team quickly enough for one of them to get to the second level. Kalil does well as a pulling linemen, and excels when asked to drive forward.

Charlie Johnson was a bit a disappointment, both in the passing game and running game. He allowed something near six pressures, and had perhaps his worst game of the season. Regardless of the defensive tackle lined up across from him, be it Nick Fairley, Ndamukong Suh, Sammie Lee Hill or Lawrence Jackson, Johnson struggled at containing the pass rush. In fact, Hill recorded 3 pressures despite a backup role (and only 20 pass rushing snaps). The fact that Johnson was responsible for a simple majority of the pressure is worrisome, and he'll need to find a way past this game during the bye week.

As a run blocker, Johnson was inconsistent. With good blocks to spring Peterson open on runs in the second quarter and fourth quarter, while being responsible for stuffs at the line (or behind) in many of the same drives. He does better pulling than driving forward. Unfortunately, the best examples of his blocking also occurred when others failed, like on some of the runs in the 22 package I mentioned above. Still as early as the first drive, we saw problems from him.

Johnson was the worst performer on the line that day.

John Sullivan is quite clearly the best run blocking center in the league, and it's not close. As a good pass blocker to boost, he should get All-Pro consideration—as Vikings fans, we well know that high-performing players don't always get the recognition they deserve, but buzz outside the Vikings is building. At any rate, this individual game was relatively subpar (that is to say it was average for a center), and he'll want to build on his strong performances from earlier in the season to continue his Pro Bowl and All-Pro campaign.

As a pass blocker, he was generally fine, but he did give up a hit. He did a good job organizing the line, and they weren't often surprised by blitzes or line stunts. While a smaller center, Sullivan holds himself up well against the strongest defensive linemen in the league, often their better as a technician and rarely off in his fundamentals. In this game, trouble in the form of Nick Fairley got the better of Sullivan once, but he was largely able to use momentum to his advantage. He stayed low off the snap both in pass protection and in road grading, and it showed.

While this wasn't a poster game for his run blocking ability, he had a few good moments, like the second offensive play of the game or the big Peterson touchdown. His problems as a run blocker rarely came as a result of being beaten by his man, and largely because he and Brandon Fusco couldn't agree or communicate on who should leave the defender and engage on the second level, letting those blocks take longer than they should. Only once did Fusco get to the second level and fail to make the block (on DeAndre Levy), and his ability to stay consistently engaged with linebackers or linemen for good rush yardage will be prized for years to come.

Starting the season off strong, Brandon Fusco has turned out to be a pretty mediocre guard. It makes sense that the Vikings have been rotating Geoff Schwartz in to see how he works. This was actually not a bad game for Fusco, but neither has it justified his spot as a starter. In his 28 snaps as a pass protector, he allowed a hit and two hurries, and wasn't entirely able to handle Suh or his cohorts. He was doing well at the beginning, but near the end of the second quarter started flagging in his efforts to keep the pocket clean. In the three-and-out near the end of the first half (but not the last drive), Fusco allowed two pressures, one that blew up what might have been a good screen pass to Adrian Peterson.

Also, stepping on Christian Ponder's foot after the snap caused a sack, if that counts.

Fusco's performance in the run game was about what one expects from a starter in the National Football League. He found himself beat on a few plays, but more often than not executed his assignment and not much more. He did extremely well on a kick out when he pulled, and may have been the best blocker on Peterson's big run, but otherwise found trouble getting to the second level or controlling his defender at the point of attack. Still, he didn't give up too many big plays and more than once a mistake of his was obscured by a larger breakdown in blocking by the team overall. Not great technique, but it also wasn't impactfully bad.

In his first two games, Geoff Schwartz was a poor performer, in my opinion. I didn't think this was a problem, and assumed it was because he needed to get his legs back after missing game time for so long. What surprised me, however, was how quickly he returned to form, and fine form at that. It's difficult to say after only having a fraction of the snaps at right guard in each game, but he's not coming in at garbage time to make his film look better. In his 20 or so snaps in Seattle and later in Detroit, Schwartz moved well in the running game while managing to hold his own as a pass blocker.

He's still an unknown, given that he's functionally had slightly more snaps this season than would constitute a full game, but what we have seen is encouraging. He seems to know the scheme, a relatively complicated one to pick up, and can handle blitz pickup duties, like he did in the Vikings' fourth drive.

As a run blocker, he's made few mistakes. He pulls well and can seal the kickout block as well as anyone in the league (or at least has demonstrated such in his limited tries). The only mistake I found in his run blocking occurred at the very end of the game, in the 22 package on 2nd and 8. Both he and Charlie Johnson missed their blocks, and Schwartz was left chasing a defender as he ran down Peterson. Regardless, there seems to be more good than bad in what Schwartz is putting on the field, and the Vikings should strongly consider a change.

Phil Loadholt was once again mercurial in his performance, performing feats of strength that seem unfair on one play and being left flat-footed on another. Still, while his performance on film looked sloppy, it's sometimes hard to argue with the results. Loadholt looked on the verge of being beaten on a number of pass blocking snaps, but held his own against Cliff Avril, only allowing a hurry or two and succeeding for his part in keeping Ponder upright.

This seems more like the Loadholt of 2010 than 2011, an oddly effective pass blocker with an inconsistent performance as a road grader.

Still, the 2012 Loadholt is the best he's ever been. His progression has been a lot slower than people may have hoped, but it's certainly clear.

I wrote more about this behemoth more than any other linemen, and it was largely because he either created some stellar holes (the last long drive of the first half included a few) or just whiffed on his run block (like the first play of the Vikings' third possession). For the most part, he can execute nearly all of his responsibilities except getting to the second level, where he's too helpless to make the block.

If the defense leaves him uncovered while the Vikings run an inside zone run, there's a virtual guarantee that the play will be stopped short or even for a loss. Loadholt crashes down well (although this is not a hard skill) and controls whomever he engages in the run game, so long as he can get his hands on them. He still has footwork problems, but it looks like he's been working on it. While Loadholt may never live up to his 2009 hype, the Vikings should be happy with what they've seen out of him this year and should be able to plan around his specific skills (and lack of specific other skills) coming out of the bye week.

Tight Ends

Kyle Rudolph blew me away, because this is the first complete game I've seen him put together. He's had games as a great blocker and more games as an excellent pass catcher, but I don't recall him putting together a game where he was able to compete in all phases of the game and really be a true tight end. It wasn't a spectacular performance, and he still clearly has a number of issues that he needs to work on, but it does indicate that Rudolph can improve in every facet of the game without losing focus in one specific area.

As a pass catcher, Rudolph did a better job generating separation, but he still needs to do a lot of work here. He's doing a better job using his frame as a weapon, and hopefully the Vikings will be able to see him become a threat outside of a compressed field. While it seems intuitive that Rudolph could line up on the line out wide as a receiver (and he frequently does), he's rarely a threat there because he still has to put all of his talents together to be an effective pass catcher in most situations.

Against Detroit, he displayed better route running, and took advantage of his speed—good for such a big frame. He still needs to work on his precision as a route-runner, but is certainly one of the most focused players on the roster. I really enjoyed his touchdown, sprung in part by a great block from Michael Jenkins, but also by his fantastic capability as a player and athlete.

While one expects someone with great hands, focus and size to be a credible threat over the middle, his route running precision really limits him, and several times forced Ponder away from him on a read.

In the running game, he created alleys and was able to use his strength and frame effectively against defensive ends, linebackers and defensive backs. While he still needs to make sure he keeps his legs moving and drive (like on the first 22 package with Ellison motioning in, a first and ten to begin the drive on the Lions' 48). He had some great blocks, but perhaps the most demonstrative was his block on Kyle Vanden Bosch when Vanden Bosch knew that the play was going to be a run at the very end of the game, when Ponder drew the flag. There was nothing the defensive end could do.

John Carlson's Ghost made an appearance once again, lending credence to the rumors that a tight end died in the Metrodome and returns upon occasion to either wreak vengeance or pick up a couple of yards, whichever suits his fancy.

At any rate, the Viking wearing the number 89 picked up 11 yards on a reception for a well designed play, and performed better than worse as a run blocker, which is outside of his advertised skill set. Still, seeing one play where I would like definite improvement as a run blocker when there are only 6 run blocking plays to evaluate doesn't speak to his reliability in this area.

He blocked out to create an alley on a run well enough, ran a poor route on a cross and could have done just a tiny bit more on his delayed routes to help with pass protection. This man has the second highest cap hit of offensive players, just behind the inestimable Adrian Peterson.

As an H-back, Rhett Ellison has a lot to learn, but should be proud of what he put together. While I hated his most visible play package, I didn't much mind his performance. There were a number of notable mistakes, but he does a good job making sure that strongside linebackers don't do their job. One more than one occasion, he picked up the wrong blocker, allowing a linebacker to make a play they otherwise wouldn't have, but his technique and aggression are all there.

Ellison has exhibited his flexibility before, but should probably be allowed to run more pass routes if he's really going to be a completely dynamic threat. He needs to be in on more pass plays (only 3 of his 26 snaps) before he can be fully evaluable as anything other than a fullback.

Wide Receivers

It's easiest to highlight the debut performance of Jarius Wright, a slot receiver that didn't need to display knowledge of the full route package or versatility of other receivers in order to make a big impact. Wright was quick and could find space. In fact, he was the only receiver open on a couple of plays, and outplayed his statistics on the field. While it is clear that Wright has more to learn in terms of route diversity, he suffered from the fact that Ponder's half-field reads were often opposite Wright.

He was surprisingly relevant in the run game, being in on blocks. He still needs to pick up defenders correctly, and hurt plays with his relatively poor blocking.

If Wright has good knowledge of the playbook, it looks like he's earned himself some credit to get more playing time.

Michael Jenkins was his slow self again, but he wasn't useless as a player. While targeted three times, Jenkins dropped his first pass in four years (with 1:06 left in the half) and couldn't move the ball more than 8 yards forward on a play. Jenkins' route precision did leave him open on a few plays he wasn't targeted on, but this was more rare than you might expect from a veteran. He occasionally found himself as the only open receiver on a play or two, but doesn't do this reliably He still can't generate separation, but is extremely useful in other phases of the game.

As a blocker, Jenkins has found new life contributing to the Vikings. It's not stellar, and probably not worth enough to justify his spot on the roster, but Jenkins has a good sense of who to block, when and how. Still, he needs to hold on to these blocks a little bit longer. His reaction time is still good, however, and he'll need to use the full gamut of skills at his disposal to keep making an impact on the team.

This was perhaps Jerome Simpson's best film in a long time, despite only being targeted 4 times (for 3 receptions). One of the skills that Simpson brings to the table that I like about him is his route intuition. While put down by some for his "understanding of the playbook" back in Cincinnati, Simpson actually displays good command of field reads and route options. Here, he was more open than his production suggests, and is a viable option on plays that Ponder ignores, including the 3rd and 12 early in the quarter, where Ponder decides to scramble and only picks up 8 yards.

While it makes sense that Simpson's deeper routes don't look open until later in the progression, when Ponder's internal alarm has gone off, Ponder should still consider Simpson as an option, because he keeps finding himself in space. He wasn't open on every play by any means, but he certainly outperformed his meager showing in the box score.

Stephen Burton and Devin Aromashodu round out the roster at receiver, given Percy Harvin's fortunately irrelevant absence. At this point, they seem to be polar opposites, with Burton on the field in a number of running situations and Aromashodu largely asked to stretch the field. Burton is a good blocker who probably does not get enough credit for clearing the secondary of tacklers on runs, but wasn't really given an opportunity to shine in this respect, with his good blocks going unnoticed amidst the blocking failures of other closer to the line of scrimmage. He can maintain his block longer than any other receiver on the roster it seems, but it hasn't amounted to much.

Burton has barely open on his only target, but a very well placed ball was wasted when he dropped it. Burton represents the bottom of the roster, but his development as a receiver and his general youth might keep him on the team while vets leave to make space for offseason acquisitions in the coming Spring and Summer.

Aromashodu was only targeted on one play, but it was a good 31 yard catch-and-run. Despite his status as a veteran, he's one of the faster receivers and can still pose a threat deep downfield. His inability to bait defensive backs or create separation with any number of potentially veteran moves will keep him buried on the depth chart, and if he's at risk for losing a spot to a rising rookie next year, no one should be surprised.

Running Backs

I could mention Toby Gerhart, but its not worth analyzing his 9 snaps. Instead, the running back in the shadows on Sunday was Jerome Felton, a fullback who seemed a gem after the first game. Since then he has generally been average, but has had some good performances here or there. Unfortunately, while I think that some have overstated his poor performance in this game, it wasn't his best work.

He was asked to lead block on 22 snaps, on three of which he didn't perform up to standards and contributed to the play's failure. Still, he was great as a blocker on some plays and was absolutely devastating on Peterson's big run (as well as a few of Peterson's other longer gains). I don't think Felton is used to blocking with another lead blocker, which may explain some of his odd blocking failures in this game. Ellison is still not at Felton's level by any means, and Jerome might find himself useful for another year or so while Ellison develops.

Having clearly emerged as the best running back in the National Football League once more, Adrian Peterson is averaging a mind-boggling 5.8 yards a carry, and leads the league in rushing, missed tackles, total yards after contact, and breakaway percentage (percentage of yards that come from runs of 15 yards or more). In fact, his breakaway percentage is 53.2%, while the next closest running back (Jamaal Charles) is at 39.5%. The others below Charles all sport numbers in the high 30s as well.

Of all running backs who had at least 1500 carries in their first six seasons, Adrian Peterson ranks first in yards per carry. That's of NFL history, spanning back to 1920. Below him are Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Shaun Alexander and Tony Dorsett. When expanded to 1300 carries, Peterson falls to second below Jim Brown by 0.06 yards. In fact, it's not until the range is expanded all the way to 900 carries before Peterson ends up outside of the top two, with running backs that only took 10 attempts a game (like DeAngelo Williams) topping him.

Even putting his injury aside, he's putting up historic numbers and looks to be remembered as among the game's best.

In this game, we saw why. Despite being the victim of poor blocking time and again, Adrian Peterson churned out yards to create a success rate well beyond the capabilities of his blockers. Before entering the fourth quarter, Peterson was averaging something like 3.3 yards per carry, but ended the game with 6.3. Even taking away his breakaway run, which many love to do, he ended up with a high success rate and a yards per carry of 4.2.

Peterson had a few miscues early on his own, however, and missed the correct read on his blocking three or so times before the half ended. Still, his vision and burst are unparalleled, and his ability to make cuts with speed is astounding. A few times, his strength allows him to wrestle for extra yardage despite a busted play, and these yards added up to several "successes" that would have otherwise been "failures" by the metric mentioned at the beginning of this article, and accumulated to quite a few yards by the end of the game.

As a pass protector, Peterson has improved in a big way despite having a lot to learn. More than once he engaged a free blitzer to give Ponder more time (despite only 6 snaps in pass protection) and only once missed a pass rusher—one who beat Fusco while Peterson was paying attention to a blitzer coming from the left. Peterson should rightly not be blamed for it, even if it looks bad.

Catching passes is something Peterson has done more of recently, but he still dropped a pass that hit his hands (and numbers) on a screen. The screen was well set up for a big gain, but Peterson still availed himself well as an occasional pass catcher.

For the most part, Peterson's successes came about as a result of good speed and turning at the corner, patience and excellent burst. He has fantastic vision and it improved over the course of the game.

Most Valuable Offensive Player: Christian Ponder
Offensive "Underclassman" of the Game: Kyle Rudolph
Unseen Player of the Game: Matt Kalil
Honorable Mention: Adrian Peterson

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