It wasn't against the best Bears' defense or against a vaunted offense, but, on a day when the Vikings' defense faltered, it was enough. And, in the aftermath of successive games in which the Vikings' coaching staff inexplicably left rookie running back Adrian Peterson on the sidelines in crunch time, Peterson made sure that staff did not make the same mistake thrice.
With touchdown runs of 67, 73, and 35 yards, and an eye-popping yards-per-carry just north of 11 yards, Peterson demonstrated why he, rather than Chester Taylor, is the guy around whom the Vikings need to tailor their offense. In previous losses to Kansas City and Green Bay, Vikings' head coach Brad Childress found himself attempting to explain why he had kept Peterson on the sidelines with the game hanging in the balance and the Vikings on offense.
After the loss to Kanas City, Chilly contended that Peterson was not as able to pick up the blitz as was Taylor. That explanation was unacceptable. After the loss to Green Bay, a game in which Peterson again was forced to watch his team's final drive from the sidelines, Chilly contended that Peterson had been kept out of the game, not so much because of blocking concerns, but because he needed a break having been on kick return all day. That explanation was even more unacceptable.
On Sunday in Chicago, Childress demonstrated his ability to change, however limited, keeping his rookie running back in a starring role through the end of the game. Despite rushing for over 200 yards, and threatening to best the rushing mark of 275 yards that Sweetness set against the Purple in one of the Vikings' more horrific defensive efforts in team history, Peterson not only entered the game to return the kickoff following the Bears' improbable game-tying touchdown inside of two minutes, he also stayed in the game for the game-winning drive.
Not surprisingly, Peterson, who looked like Gulliver surrounded by Lilliputians for much of the game, but particularly as he ran up the middle for a 53-yard kick return inside of two minutes left in the game, made Chilly's change of perspective pay dividends. Though he contributed a 4-yard loss in his only carry from the line of scrimmage in the ensuing, four-play drive capped by a game-winning, 55-yard field goal, his mere presence showed that Chilly has now conceded his value to the team in such situations.
If Chilly continues to call Peterson's number and challenges the numerous suspect defenses of the NFC to stop the running back, the Vikings could well ride the back of their rookie to a respectable season, regardless of whether quarterback Tarvaris Jackson figures out how to put air under the ball. And that might be enough to permit Vikings' fans to overlook some of the team's other short-comings and even help alleviate those short-comings.
Up Next: Defensive Issues. Plus, some signs of coaching improvement.