EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Every time Adrian Peterson touched the ball in the second half against San Diego in 2007, the Minnesota Vikings running back churned toward the single-game rushing record.
As soon as Brooks Bollinger would stick the ball in Peterson’s gut, 65,000 people in the Metrodome seemed to take a deep breath all at once in anticipation of what was coming.
Four years later, as Peterson looks back on his 296-yard performance and prepares to face the Chargers on Sunday in the season opener, one thing stands out more than anything else — he could’ve had more.
“When I look back, I missed some opportunities in the first half, but that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes you start fast and finish strong,” Peterson said Thursday. “It’s all about making the adjustments at halftime and I felt like we made some good adjustments and came out, stayed true to it and continued to pound up front, pound up front.”
Even more remarkable than the final total, Peterson rushed for 253 of those yards in the second half of a 35-17 victory over the favored Chargers. He averaged a staggering 15.8 yards per carry in the second half, scoring on runs of 64 and 46 yards.
“He just took over the game much like what you see basketball players do when they get on a roll and no matter what you do, you can’t stop him,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who was the defensive coordinator for that game. “He was the same way every time he touched it, you almost felt like something good was going to happen.”
Peterson said a lot of the same chances for big runs were there in the first half, but it just wasn’t quite clicking. His backup, Chester Taylor, also piled up 60 yards on just nine carries in the game.
So does that mean we will see a 300-yard game from a running back one day?
“Yeah, definitely,” Peterson said.
Will it be you?
“Yes, it will.”
If the Chargers have one goal in the rematch, it’s making sure that doesn’t happen against them. Many of the main defensive players from that 2007 game are gone, and the Chargers aren’t all that interested in reminiscing.
“I expect not to give up 296 yards on the ground,” said Chargers safety Eric Weddle, who played sparingly as a rookie in that game. “If we do that, I 100 percent guarantee we’re not going to win. That’s just not in our minds at all. We don’t even think about that. The past is past.”
Still, the memories of that game haven’t gone away.
“It’s been a long time but you don’t forget one like that,” Chargers coach Norv Turner said. “We just have to do a great job on him and we have to tackle as well as we’ve tackled and we have to be disciplined.”
Having a target on his back will be nothing new for Peterson. Opposing defenses have made stopping him their No. 1 priority ever since he entered the league in 2007. That’s the way it was that November when the Chargers came to the Metrodome and that’s the way it will be on Sunday when the Vikings walk into Qualcomm Stadium.
“Since this is the first time we have faced them since that game, I’m sure their coach is, especially the defensive coordinator, is getting those guys pumped up,” Peterson said. “They know. It’s not a secret. I’m sure they’re going to be pumped up to go.”
Peterson won’t just be seeing new faces on the Chargers defense. Only two of the five offensive linemen who opened the gaping holes for him in 2007 — left guard Steve Hutchinson and right guard Anthony Herrera — are still around.
Peterson is running behind a new left tackle in Charlie Johnson, and center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt are both coming off of disappointing seasons. Hutchinson will be playing for the first time since last November after he missed the final five games of last season with a hand injury.
He’ll also be taking the handoffs from a new quarterback, with Donovan McNabb coming over in a trade with Washington just before training camp opened. The revamped group showed some promising signs in the preseason of coming together in new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s system.
“Guys are stepping in and doing an outstanding job,” Peterson said. “I feel like each week we’ve improved, just protecting the quarterback, giving him time to step back in the pocket and complete passes and just dominating up front.”
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