Asiata fills in for Peterson with another big game
MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson made his mark on the Metrodome in his seven seasons for the Minnesota Vikings. A sprained right foot and lingering groin injury kept Peterson from creating one last memorable game in the old stadium.
Instead, Matt Asiata did his best Peterson impression after getting the chance for one enduring memory before the Metrodome falls.
Filling in for Peterson and Toby Gerhart — out with a hamstring injury — Asiata ran 14 times for 115 yards in Minnesota’s 14-13 win against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Asiata’s final run, a 39-yarder, allowed the Vikings to kneel down to run out the clock and gave the second-year, undrafted back out of Utah to earn his first 100-yard game in the NFL.
"I’ve got to work on my speed, but it’s hard to be like Adrian Peterson, to break out with speed and everything," Asiata said of his final carry. "I just try to protect the ball, because I see people coming from behind, thinking ‘just don’t step out of bounds.’"
Asiata might not blow anyone away with game-breaking speed like Peterson, but in two chances to step forward with Peterson and Gerhart out this season, Asiata has filled in admirably. Two weeks ago at the Metrodome, Asiata had 30 carries for 51 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-30 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Asiata, the 220-pound running back/fullback hybrid, caught Peterson’s eye.
"I’m proud of him," Peterson said. "I’ve been telling him all week to get your mind right and be focused and keep your feet moving. He had a little adversity with the fumble, but he stayed with his game and came back and essentially closed the game for us with that last run."
Asiata was left to play mainly special teams the past two seasons for Minnesota behind Peterson and Gerhart in the running back pecking order.
"You never know when your opportunity will come up," Asiata said. "It sucks when they’re injured, a back like Adrian Peterson and Toby, but you’ve just got to keep the dice rolling and continue to get better."
Asiata also dealt with the death of his father in an automotive accident, capping a year of highs and lows.
"I try not to mix it in with the guys and try not to show my emotions; just come out here and just work," Asiata said. "Just like my dad did, went into work and worked his heart off. So that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve been blessed to do it."
Gerhart and Asiata are both free agents this offseason. Gerhart is unlikely to be back with a chance to earn a bigger role elsewhere. Asiata is an exclusive rights free agent and is hopeful for a return.
Defense avoids record: Minnesota entered Sunday’s game allowing a league-worst 467 points this season, an average of 31.13 per game. The franchise record for most points allowed in a season was in 1984 when the 3-13 Vikings gave up 484 points.
With the 11th-highest scoring team in Detroit coming to the Metrodome Sunday, the record seemed inevitable. But Minnesota held the Lions scoreless in the first half and 13 points in the game to avoid setting a franchise mark.
"We didn’t break it, right," Kevin Williams asked. "So that’s good, right? I bet you guys thought we were going to get it. It wasn’t any thought about it. We saw it printed or somewhere I saw it. Nobody paid any attention to it. We wanted to come out and put on a good showing. If it was 38-35, or 14-13, whatever it was, we wanted to win either way. And we were able to do it."
The Vikings didn’t want to be part of any record though.
"Obviously you never want to be associated with being the worst in a franchise," defensive end Brian Robison said. "We already tied for the worst record here, so obviously, yeah, that’s huge for us, not only to get the victory but also avoid that. It feels good to get that done."
Minnesota sacked quarterback Matthew Stafford five times.
Allen and Williams go out strong: Jared Allen had two sacks to finish with a team-high 11.5 sacks. Allen led the team and posted double-digits in each of his six seasons with the Vikings.
Allen will be a free agent at the end of the season. He said he’s had conversations with the team, but wouldn’t divulge the topic of the conversations.
"Just trying to enjoy this moment right now, going out on a win," Allen said. "However the chips fall, I just know these last six years have been amazing. I couldn’t ask for more from this organization. Couldn’t ask for more from this state. It’s been a blessing for myself, my family and more so, I think, just how I’ve grown as a man. I came in as a 25-year-old to where I am now, it’s been life-changing. I met my wife in that time, I got married, I became a father. It’s just been an absolute blessing, so I’ll take some time to reflect. This isn’t a one-sided decision. We’ll have to see where they’re at. We’ll have honest conversations with everybody and see where we go. However it works out, it’ll work out the way it’s supposed to."
Kevin Williams also ended up with a sack in possibly his final game with Minnesota.
"It was a little tough running off that last time with the crowd cheering," Williams said, adding that he’ll retire as a Viking when his career is over. "But for the most part I’ve been trying to harness my energy and put my best foot forward today."
Williams said he isn’t likely to retire this offseason and said it’s not a Minnesota-or-retire situation.
"I wouldn’t say that," Williams said. "Hopefully I’ll play a couple more. That’s my hopes and dreams, but it’s a business. You’ve got to see what happens. When free agency hits, who knows what happens."
Allen had chance at touchdown: The Vikings lost Rhett Ellison to an ankle injury and were in the red zone when coaches sent in Allen as a tight end. Allen went into the end zone on a route, but quarterback Matt Cassel missed an open Allen for the possible touchdown.
"You know what was going through my mind," Allen asked. "I didn’t expect the linebacker to jam me. All I was thinking was ‘don’t fall down.’ Got up and I’m no longer 100 percent — that kind of sucks. I was 2-for-2 with two touchdowns. Now I’m 2-for-3, so I’m not really going to count this one, because the ball wasn’t catchable."
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