MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson was hoping his faster-than-expected return would help catapult the Minnesota Vikings into the playoffs.
Instead, the Vikings fell flat in a 34-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, a curiously uninspired performance that all but eliminated them from postseason contention. Peterson, who had not played since September because of a torn meniscus in his right knee, had just 22 yards on six carries, including a crucial fumble in the first half on a rare trip into Colts territory.
Before he came back, Peterson said he would not play the remainder of the season if the Vikings were out of contention. He didn’t want to risk any further injury with an uncertain future. But after the Colts loss, Peterson said he planned to play Saturday in Green Bay.
“Definitely not what I envisioned coming into this game,” Peterson said. “It’s unfortunate that it ended the way it did.”
The U.S. Bank Stadium crowd gave him a rousing ovation when he was introduced before the game, but he had runs of 2, 1, 0, 2 and 4 yards behind an offensive line that has struggled to open holes in the running game all season long. He popped one solid run — a 13-yarder — but had the ball stripped out by Mike Adams to stunt one of the few drives the offense had going in the first half. The Vikings managed just two first downs in the first two quarters and trailed 27-0 at the break.
“There were some runs he probably needed to do a little bit better, and there were some times where there wasn’t much there,” coach Mike Zimmer said Monday. “He only had 12 plays.”
With the Vikings facing such a big deficit, they had to shift to a pass-heavy offense in the second half. Peterson watched nearly the entire half from the sideline while Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata — backups more proficient in receiving and pass blocking than Peterson — shared the workload.
“It was tough. You look at the scoreboard and you’re down by a couple touchdowns. The running game is irrelevant at that point,” Peterson said. “Of course I don’t like being on the sideline, but I have faith in Matt and Jerick. Those guys do a great job.”
The Vikings (7-7) have two more games left, at Green Bay on Christmas Eve and home against Chicago in the season finale. While he was rehabbing his injury, Peterson gave thought to not playing at all for the rest of the year. He will enter an intriguing offseason, when the 31-year-old is due to make $18 million in the final season of his contract in 2017. Most believe he will have to take a significant pay cut to stay in Minnesota, but it remains unclear if the Vikings will want to bring him back.
Should Peterson get injured again, or even if he has two more low-production games, his stock could take a hit.
While Peterson did commit to the Packers game on Saturday, he said it was too soon to think about the finale.
“I’m not going to jump ahead two weeks,” Peterson said. “Just look forward to this week.”