NFL: Fumbles derail Peterson, Vikings
By Chip Scoggins
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
NEW ORLEANS — Adrian Peterson came out of the locker room — still dressed in full uniform — to watch the New Orleans Saints celebrate their first trip to the Super Bowl.
As fans cheered, confetti fell and the Saints gathered on a stage at midfield, Peterson stood silent and watched the scene from the tunnel.
“It was painful,” he said. “Especially the way the game ended. Our guys fought hard, and I honestly feel like we just gave the game away. Too many turnovers. It came back at the end to bite us.”
Peterson had a hand in that. Though he finally rushed for 100 yards and scored three touchdowns, Peterson also fumbled twice — and was probably responsible for another when he botched a handoff from Brett Favre — in the Vikings’ 31-28 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
Peterson finished with 122 yards rushing on 25 carries, ending a streak of eight games without reaching the 100-yard mark. But his performance was marred by his fumbles, and he admitted afterward that he started thinking too much about his mistakes.
“After the first one close to the goal line, I let it play in my head too much,” he said. “I came out the second half and was thinking about it too much. I had to get my mind back focused and not thinking about it when I was out there.”
His fumble problems started with a wacky sequence late in the first half. With the score tied 14-14, the Vikings punted the ball with 1:24 remaining in the half. Chris Kluwe got good hang time again, but rather than call for a fair catch, Bush tried to return it deep in his own end. Eric Frampton had a full head of steam coming down the field and hit Bush a split second after he caught the ball.
The hit jarred the ball loose and backup linebacker Kenny Onatolu recovered it at the 10-yard line with 1:13 left. At that point the Vikings looked as though they would go into the locker room at halftime with a three-point lead at the worst.
Peterson carried the ball to the 4 on the first play. But on the next play, he lost the handoff exchange from Favre and Saints linebacker Scott Fujita jumped on the ball.
Favre was credited with the fumble, but Peterson took responsibility.
“The play was poorly executed by me,” he said. “I didn’t make a big enough pocket, and it hit my elbow.”
Peterson appeared to get his wrist taped on the sideline at one point in the second half, but he said he didn’t do anything different.
“No wrist tape or anything. It was all about the mindset,” he said. “Hold on to the ball, not thinking about it when you’re out there. I’ve been saying that all year, but it’s a battle you have to fight. Eventually I overcame it.”
Peterson’s first official fumble came on the Vikings’ first possession of the second half. Saints linebacker Scott Shanle tried to scoop it up and run, but he lost control and the Vikings recovered it at the 50.
Peterson finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the score 21-21.
He fumbled on the next possession again. This time he recovered the ball 15 yards downfield at the end of his run.
Peterson’s fumbling problem became a major issue in his third season. He fumbled seven times, losing six of them. He said he will spend the offseason trying to solve it.
“With my running style, it will be something I’m thinking about as far as practice keeping the ball high,” he said. “The way I run, the ball kind of gets loose. I have to be more conscious of keeping the ball high when I’m going down. Those are some little things I’ll definitely look to correct this offseason.”