Friday, December 16, 2016

Why do fans still believe in Adrian Peterson?

Great news! Adrian Peterson says he will play Sunday against Indianapolis. Vegas noticed, changing the line from Minnesota -4 to Minnesota -5. That's the effect Adrian Peterson's name has on gamblers. The NAME has a similar effect on many Vikings fans. They hear "Adrian Peterson is playing" and immediately believe all the Vikings' offensive ills will be cured!

But will the Vikings' offensive ills be cured? This is what I wrote awhile back:

"Viking fans look at Peterson as a potential savior. Would Peterson give the offense the boost necessary to propel Minnesota to the playoffs? The odds are against it. 

It would likely take Peterson a couple of weeks to work himself back into full game-shape. The clock would likely run out on the Vikings' season before Peterson had a chance to really get back to form.

There's also the problem of working him into an offense that under Pat Shurmur has evolved somewhat away from the scheme Norv Turner was trying to run.

Peterson never looked in sync with the Vikings' shotgun looks. But with Sam Bradford in there and the offensive line struggling in pass protection, the Vikes have become largely a shotgun, get-the-ball-out-as-fast-as-possible offense.

Are the Vikings going to scrap - or at least dial back - the shotgun just to accommodate Peterson? Are they going to bring back Norv's deep drops and play-action?

The blocking isn't suddenly going to improve just because Peterson is back.

If lack of running back talent were the Vikings' ONLY problem, I would feel much more confident about Peterson returning and kick-starting the offense.

But the offense has a lot of other problems too. And Peterson's return might in some ways actually cause that unit to regress."

Is Adrian Peterson going to pick the Vikings up on his back and carry them into the postseason like he did in 2012? Fans fantasize about this happening, but I wouldn't bank on it. 2016 Peterson is NOT 2012 Peterson. Peterson's last good game happened December 27, 2015 - almost a year ago - when he put up 104 yards against a then-dismal Giants team. In the three weeks leading up to that game, he put up 18 yards, 69  yards and 63 yards. All below-average performances by his standards. In the final regular season game of 2015 he ran for just 67. In the playoff game against Seattle he ran for 45 on 23 attempts with a key fumble. In his two games this year, he ran for 31 and 19. Dominating numbers these are not.

"Okay sure," you're thinking. "But this is AD we're talking about. He's going to be FIRED UP. He wants to PROVE THE DOUBTERS WRONG. He's going to go BEAST MODE ON INDIANAPOLIS. He is going to SHUT UP ALL THE HATERS." Wonderful hype, that is. And that's ALL it is. Look at the evidence and there's very little reason to believe Peterson has it in him to make much of an impact for the Vikings over the last three weeks of the season.

"Well at least he's better than Matt Asiata," some of you might say. Not saying a lot though, is it? And frankly, in pass protection, Asiata IS much better than Peterson. And Asiata most of the time is a guy you can count on not fumbling (not so much last week, but usually).

Let's extend this whole thing back even further. How often has Adrian Peterson shown up in big games? Okay, late 2012 he had a huge game against the Packers to put the Vikes in the postseason. I'll give you that one. But outside of that? He gave the Vikes ZILCH against Seattle last year. He gave the Vikes VERY LITTLE in the playoff game against the Packers in 2012. He fumbled in the NFC title game in 2009. Is Adrian Peterson a big-game player? Is he a guy who rises to the occasion when the lights are brightest? He's a guy who tends to wilt under the pressure. When I think of Peterson in big games, I think of fumbles. I think of underwhelming performances. I think of fizzle not sizzle. Why should this Sunday be any different?

Good news for AD: If he has a bad game, at least he has the built-in excuses of a terrible offensive line and an offensive coordinator who doesn't know how to call running plays. The same fans who are looking for AD to go BEAST MODE ON INDY will be quick to forgive him if he fails. Some fans will never get past their infatuation with the former Face of the Franchise. Guess what? Peterson may be the most popular Viking of the past decade, but he's never delivered much when it mattered. That's a sorry fact that many fans don't want to face.

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