Ponder getting Peterson more involved in pass game

BY foxsports • November 12, 2011

It hardly seems like a revolutionary idea for the Minnesota Vikings to get Adrian Peterson the ball more in the passing game.

Peterson is arguably the best running back and most dynamic player in the league, so throwing to him on the edge to give him some room to operate seems like a no-brainer.

For the first six weeks of the season, the Vikings' best player was non-existent in the passing offense. He had just 12 catches for 49 yards.

''Sometimes I don't get the ball and I'm like grrr I was wide open,'' Peterson said recently.

It was a statement that made Peterson sound more like a receiver than ever before. Maybe that's because he was more involved in that part of the game than ever before when the Vikings beat the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago.

Peterson had five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown and added another 86 yards and a score on the ground to help the Vikings go into the bye week on a good note.

If there has been a knock on the superstar, both in college and the pros, it's criticism that he isn't the most natural pass-catcher or the smoothest route runner around. Peterson chafes at the assessment, saying he's ready for more responsibility and a bigger role in that area than ever before.

Peterson credited rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, who took over for veteran Donovan McNabb as the starter three weeks ago, for being willing to get him the ball in the passing game.

''I was there the first couple weeks but wasn't getting it for whatever reason,'' Peterson said. ''But he found me and you see what happens. We can be productive in that area also.''

Ponder will make his third start on Monday night when the Vikings head to undefeated Green Bay, and he said he is willing to take what the defense gives him and feed Peterson if he is open.

''When you look at the defense what Carolina was doing when they were dropping in their zones, they were deep and they were leaving him wide open and we probably could have done it a couple more times,'' Ponder said. ''But, also it gives you confidence when the guy catches a 3-yard catch and turns it into 20 yards. That's huge.''

That's Peterson's greatest skill, the ability to turn a sliver of daylight into a big play.

Logic would seem to dictate that getting Peterson the ball in the passing game would lead to more of those big plays. Unlike when he takes a handoff and the defense has eight men near the line of scrimmage with all eyes on No. 28, throwing it to him on a swing pass or check-down can create more one-on-one matchups.

''At times it's tough to get Adrian through the line of scrimmage because there's a bunch of people up there jamming it,'' offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. ''Another way to do it is to throw him some good catchable balls where he can get through that first line of defense and then let him do his thing.

''It just worked out, both schematically and by the way that Carolina played a couple of snaps of zone and they just dropped exceptionally deep and the quarterback did a good job of finding Adrian.''

The more the better for Peterson, who rushed for 175 yards in a 33-27 loss to the Packers at the Metrodome on Oct. 23.

If the defending Super Bowl champions have shown any weakness this year, it's the defense giving up big chunks of yardage, both on the ground and through the air. Chargers running back Mike Tolbert had four catches for 59 yards last week, Bears running back Matt Forte had seven catches for 80 yards in Week 3, Panthers back Jonathan Stewart caught eight balls for 100 yards in Week 2 and Saints quarterback Drew Brees hit his backs - Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas - 11 times for 112 yards in the opener.

Peterson had only one catch for no yards in Minnesota's first game against Green Bay, which was Ponder's first start.

''If I'm open, I'm sure he'll find me once he goes through his reads,'' Peterson said. ''I'm kind of like that guy he can come to when he's in need. I'm going to do my best as far as getting open and he's got to do his job finding me in moments we can take advantage of it. So we'll see.''

NOTES: Coming off the bye week, the Vikings are pretty healthy going into Lambeau Field. RG Anthony Herrera (left knee) is out, but only CB Antoine Winfield (neck) and RT Phil Loadholt (illness) were listed as probable. Both will play, with Winfield taking the field for the first time in five games. ''Body feels good,'' Winfield said Saturday. ''I'm just excited to get back out there.''


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