Adrian Peterson put the play that sealed the Vikings’ fate on Sunday on his shoulders.
It was Peterson who missed the block on blitzing Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward with the Vikings driving near midfield, trailing by three points with less than a minute to play. Peterson instead popped outside as a receiving target, giving Ward an unimpeded path to Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Ward stripped Bridgewater of the ball, Von Miller recovered and Denver escaped with a 23-20 victory.
“I put that on me,” Peterson said Sunday. “I’ve got to come through and make that block for Teddy.”
Yet that might have been Peterson’s only blocking mishap of the day, at least according to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
Peterson was asked to help protect Bridgewater numerous times as Minnesota tried to slow the Broncos’ vaunted pass rush. The added protection didn’t keep the Broncos off Bridgewater, who was sacked seven times. Zimmer said Denver blitzed more than Minnesota anticipated.
“We had a couple mental errors, we had a couple of guys get beat, so it was a combination of things,” Zimmer said. “I thought Teddy did a good job of getting the ball out, but there was a couple of times where we weren’t able to adjust the protection because of some of the movement things that we had going on.
The Vikings threw the ball 41 times compared with 21 rushes Sunday. Peterson carried 16 times for 81 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown. Zimmer said the script didn’t call for that many passes.
“But sometimes that’s the situation that you get into,” Zimmer said. “We were aware of who was in the ballgame for them and we were going to throw the ball when they weren’t in the ballgame, so some of those times we got off the script because of that.”
That type of run-to-pass ratio would have kept Peterson off the field more often in the past — usually giving way to backup Matt Asiata, with concerns about Peterson’s ability to protect the passer. Against San Francisco in Week 1, for instance, Peterson played just 36 of 56 offensive snaps — 64 percent — with Minnesota forced into numerous passing situations and trailing for most of the game. Despite the high volume of throws against Denver, Peterson was on the field for 57 of the Vikings’ 75 offensive snaps, for 76 percent of the plays.
“We kept him in there on some third downs this time,” Zimmer said, “so we’ll keep going with it.”
Zimmer said Peterson continues to work hard to improve his pass protection.
“The thing with Adrian is he doesn’t just say, ‘Hey, I’m a running back, I want to work on that,’ ” Zimmer said. “He wants to work on this, he wants to be out there as much as he possibly can, so he’s committed to becoming a better pass protector, and I believe he is. He’s working very hard at it and knowing which guys to block and how to block him.”