GREEN BAY, Wis. — With swarms of reporters around him following Saturday night’s playoff loss in Green Bay, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had trouble assessing a season in which he amazed everyone in his return from knee surgery, chased the single-season rushing record and led Minnesota to the playoffs in what was largely expected to be a rebuilding year for the team that went 3-13 last season.
Peterson, who had rushed for 409 yards in the two regular-season meetings against the Packers, finished with 99 yards rushing on 22 carries in Saturday night’s 24-10 loss in the first round of the playoffs.
“I am kind of in a daze right now,” Peterson said. “I guess when you come in expecting something, and leaving here with a loss, it’s tough right now. I am just taking it in.”
Peterson didn’t have the help he needed Saturday night with backup quarterback Joe Webb playing for an injured Christian Ponder and Green Bay loading up to slow Peterson. Peterson, who will be one of the top candidates for MVP, Offensive Player of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year when the NFL’s major awards are announced in a few weeks, is left feeling unfulfilled with the Vikings exiting the playoffs early.
Peterson, not happy with just getting to the playoffs, said he can’t qualify this season as a success, despite all his and the team’s accomplishments.
“Not really; it’s never a success when you don’t win a Super Bowl,” Peterson said. “But I love the chemistry that we have here and I feel like we can come back and go all the way.”
Add the Super Bowl to Peterson’s growing list of goals for next season. Peterson, who finished the regular season with 2,097 yards, said he plans on chasing down Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record next year after falling eight yards short this season.
One of the key reasons Peterson came so close was his 210-yard and 199-yard games against the Packers in the regular season, but they didn’t let Peterson break free Saturday. Peterson’s longest gain was 18 yards.
“The first two games he killed us,” Green Bay linebacker Erik Walden said. “If you get anxious, he’ll run into the pile and bounce outside. If you peek inside, that’s all he needs to break outside. So today we wanted to make sure we maintained our gaps and we were able to do that for the most part.”
Peterson had made so many big runs this season with his rare cutback ability, but he saw a more disciplined defense Saturday night.
“They played some good defense,” Peterson said. “They played more patient defense. They stayed on the backside to take away the cutback and they played slower instead of being really aggressive and over-pursuing plays. With that, they were able to bottle up the run game.”
Allen headed to surgery: Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who confirmed earlier this season he was playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder, said he will have surgery following the season.
Allen said it will be the first time he’s undergone a surgery in his nine-year career. Allen had six tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits in Saturday night’s game. He had 12 sacks during the regular season a year after finishing with 22.
Defensive end Brian Robison, who was also limited with a shoulder injury, left the game in the third quarter because of the pain in his right shoulder. Robison suffered an AC sprain in the shoulder three weeks ago and missed one game. He played the last two weeks, but was bothered by the shoulder.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, playing with a cast to protect the broken bone in his right hand, didn’t play his usual amount of snaps, often coming in on three-cornerback sets to play the slot receiver.
Safety Harrison Smith left the game in the third quarter and was grabbing behind his knee, which had limited him during the week after he was hurt in last week’s game. But Smith was able to walk off under his own power and later returned to the game.
Read-option early and then nothing: Trying to take advantage of Webb’s athleticism, and possibly catch Green Bay by surprise, Minnesota opened with several read-options involving Webb and Peterson.
The strategy worked early with the Vikings running eight straight times on the opening possession and driving into the red zone. Peterson ran six times for 31 yards and Webb had two carries for 22 yards. Webb’s first pass of the game — and the season — went incomplete and Minnesota had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.
The Vikings went away from the read-option plays after that, turning Webb into more of a traditional dropback passer and he struggled with the transition, at one point going 7 of 25 passing for 61 yards and an interception before two improved drives late.
“We mixed some of those read-options along the way,” Frazier said when asked about abandoning the play. “But at some point, you would like to complete some passes. Early on, we did have them off-balance and had some opportunities in the passing game, but we just couldn’t connect.
Webb finished 11 of 30 for 180 yards and a late 50-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins.