Imagine if you will. . .a running back so great, so outstanding, so elite that when he averages nearly 100 yards and a touchdown per game throughout the course of a season, the first question everyone asks is, "What's wrong with him?" For Vikings fans, there's no need to imagine, as we have a running back fitting exactly that description on the roster right now. Yes, folks, I'm speaking of the best running back in the National Football League, #28 in your program and #1 in your hearts, Adrian Peterson.
Through the first 11 games of the 2009 season, Peterson has rushed for 1084 yards (98.5 yards/game) and scored 12 touchdowns. This despite things like what we heard from Vikings' offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell after Sunday's victory over Chicago. . .
"They just had everybody in there in the box," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "They were slamming everything against the formation, slanting their front, putting the safety on the backside coming. They were just doing everything they could to stop the run game. … [But] that’s where we’ve gotten to at this point, where you can flip it over and say, ‘Hey, just start throwing it.’"
Yes, folks, the Vikings have a quarterback that, through the first eleven games of the year, has thrown eight times as many touchdown passes as interceptions. . .and defenses are still scared to death of Adrian Peterson beating them. What does that say for how worried we should be about Adrian Peterson?
The one worry about the best running back in the league is that he's developing a propensity for putting the ball on the ground. In 41 career NFL games, Peterson has put the ball on the turf 19 times, and the Vikings have lost 12 of those fumbles. However, of Peterson's five lost fumbles this season, opponents have managed to take advantage exactly twice for a total of ten points. The Lions got a field goal following a Peterson fumble back in Week 2, and Clay Matthews of the Packers fluked his way into a touchdown on a play where the whistle should have blown everything dead. And, despite Peterson's fumbles, the Vikings still have the second-fewest turnovers in the NFL with 11.
To this point, Peterson's fumbles haven't been killers. . .far from it. Does he need to learn to hang on to the ball a bit better? Certainly, he does. But he's not the only great back in NFL history with a propensity for the fumble. In his first four years in the NFL, Eric Dickerson averaged twelve fumbles a season. Walter Payton coughed the ball up 30 times in his first three seasons. I don't think there was a whole lot of worry about either of those guys, because their teams knew that their production on the field far, far outweighed the potential cons of a fumble. Don't get me wrong, Chester Taylor's a nice back and everything. . .but he's no Adrian Peterson. Heck, if he was Adrian Peterson, then the Vikings wouldn't have drafted Adrian Peterson, and then we wouldn't be talking about Adrian Peterson because there wouldn't be any Adrian Peterson in Minnesota.
(Man, was that Madden-esque enough for everyone? Now I know how Frank Caliendo feels.)
I also realize that Peterson's production hasn't been quite what it was last season, either. But, if teams are going to continue to defend the Vikings like they're starting Spergon Wynn at quarterback, Peterson's explosiveness may be limited. But I've got a funny feeling that when we need the kid most, he'll be ready, willing, and able to deliver like he has the entire time that he's been in Minnesota.
So how worried should the Vikings be about Adrian Peterson? Not terribly, I say. The guy is still the best running back in the NFL, he's still (obviously) one of the most feared players in the NFL, and I don't think there's anybody in the entire league right now. . .and certainly no other running back. . .that Minnesota would even entertain a trade offer for if they had to include Adrian Peterson. He's going to be fine going forward, and he's going to continue to be an asset to the Minnesota Vikings. I also have a funny feeling that he's going to hold on to the pigskin a bit better from here on out as well.