Vikings offense no longer just Peterson
For his first two seasons in the NFL, the entire Minnesota Vikings offense rested on Adrian Peterson's broad, sculpted shoulders. Passing wasn't a good option around here, and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe could see the burden it was causing one of the league's most dynamic players. "We expected him to do extreme things out there or do some Superman things out there," Shiancoe said. The only thing Peterson was missing as a big red "S" on his chest. There was the game where he broke the single-season rushing record in 2007, rolling up 296 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the Chargers. Or the one when he rushed for 192 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown against the Packers last year. When the 2009 season started, it looked to be more of the same. With the offense struggling to move the ball, Peterson took matters into his hands once more, rushing for 180 yards and three touchdowns in a victory at Cleveland. But a funny thing has happened in Viking land over the last month of the season as Minnesota (5-0) has jumped out to its best start in six years. Peterson is starting to get by with a little help from his friends. The best running back in the league hasn't topped 100 yards since the opener, putting him far behind the pace of his stated goal of 2,000 yards. He only had 15 carries in the 38-10 victory Sunday at St. Louis, yet there was no sulking about his lack of inclusion in the offense. He didn't demand that coach Brad Childress hand him the ball. Peterson just leaned back and smiled. "I sat back in the locker room and I looked around and I was seeing so many guys where you can just feel their spirit is up," Peterson said. "Just the fact that they feel that good and that they're contributing. I know how that feels. You see other guys around just with that uplifting spirit. Our offense has so much more balance." Thanks to the arrival of quarterback Brett Favre and receiver Percy Harvin, along with the maturation of receiver Sidney Rice, the Vikings are a much more balanced outfit on offense these days. "We were notorious for Adrian," Shiancoe said. "(Defenses) packed up the box. Had 12 people in the box, plus coaches in the box. Now they can't do that anymore. Now they have to respect the passing game." That may not be the best news for fantasy owners who took Peterson high in their drafts. But for the Vikings, it could mean the difference between competing for a division title and contending for a berth in the Super Bowl. Favre has the fifth-highest rating in the league and only three quarterbacks have thrown more than his nine touchdowns. The old man sure is spreading the ball around. Six Vikings have at least 10 receptions this year and five have caught scoring passes. Rice's 17 receptions in five games are more than he had all of last season. "Teams don't know if we're going to run the ball or pass the ball," Shiancoe said. "We can run the ball really good, but at the same time, we've got receivers at every position to make big plays. Everybody's thriving in this offense." And it's not like Peterson isn't producing, either. He is second in the league in the rushing - just 6 yards behind Cincinnati's Cedric Benson - and first in rushing touchdowns with seven. "It's not all about me," Peterson said. "Last year was a situation where our passing game really wasn't up to par and we had to focus on the run. So every game I had 25 or 30 carries. "Now that we're more balanced and so many guys are able to make plays, it's not all about the running game. We've got it balanced out. Ultimately, that's what makes us the team we are now. So I'm psyched about that." Shiancoe can see a difference. "Now the weight is shared," Shiancoe said. "I'd rather have five pounds on my back than have 50 pounds on my back." Opposing teams are getting the message that the Vikings are no longer a one-man show. "It is just top-to-bottom," said John Harbaugh, whose Ravens visit the Metrodome on Sunday. "They have got playmakers all over the field on offense." Peterson rushed for only 69 yards against the Rams, but the Vikings still rolled up season highs in total offense (389 yards) and points (38). "If we go into a game and win and I have 50 yards, 'Go Vikes,"' Peterson said. "It's never been about stats or numbers with me." That kind of selfless attitude is nothing new to those who know him well, but now his fans are getting a firsthand look at his personality on and off the field in a new DVD released this week entitled "All Day with Adrian Peterson." NFL Films follows Peterson from the time he leaves his garage in Eden Prairie through a full day of practice, splicing in highlights of his first two seasons in the league throughout. The most revealing aspect of the video is never-before-heard interactions between the Vikings and Peterson, who prefers to let his play, not his mouth, grab the headlines. "I want people to really know how I am as a person," Peterson said. "I'm just like you guys. I play football and God has blessed me with this tremendous talent, but I want people to see that I have a good personality and really have a good heart and the fans have shown me so much love. This will be a good opportunity for them to see how I am."