The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 8, 2012

Peterson ankle "out of whack"; Harvin big game


St. Paul Pioneer Press

Adrian Peterson was "out of whack" because of a twisted ankle that required treatment at halftime and affected his ability to get in and out of cuts, the Vikings' star running back said following their 30-7 victory over the Titans.

Peterson finished with 88 yards on 17 carries, a 5.2-yard average that included a season-high, 34-yard burst. Hardly a throwaway performance for someone barely nine months removed from reconstructive knee surgery. But after his 102-yard breakout last week at Detroit, Peterson was left unsatisfied against Tennessee.

"I was thinking about my ankle too much because it was tender," Peterson said. "I had to come in the second half and readjust. I did all right the second half, but I can do better."

Peterson, who was hampered last year by a sprained ankle before suffering his season-ending knee injury in Week 16, said he was injured on the second play of the game.

"I got my ankle twisted up. I couldn't cut and I was trying to test it out. That threw my focus off," he said. "I was hesitant on some plays, but the guys kept me encouraged. I got through it."

By St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Brian Murphy. Follow him on twitter.com/bmurphPiPress

Rudolph becoming bigger part of offense

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph had 13 catches and three touchdowns in the Vikings' first three games. Then, last week against Detroit, he had just two receptions for eight yards. He became a bigger part of the offense in the Vikings' 30-7 victory over Tennessee on Sunday, Oct. 7, catching four passes for 23 yards, including a 15-yard TD reception. Here is Rudolph ...

On his touchdown: "It was man coverage with a safety on top. Christian (Ponder) recognized the man coverage when I went in motion. He expects me to make those plays so threw it up to me and I was able to go up and get it."

On the rest of his game: "I had a drop on a play in the middle. I need to do a better job of getting open for Christian. We'll get back on the same page this week in practice."

On whether teams are trying to more to shut him down: "You're see a little bit more coverage over the top. It's something we've just got to prepare for and move forward."

Harvin hits historic day

Though Percy Harvin was the NFL's leading receiver heading into the Vikings' game against the Detroit Lions last week, he hadn't scored a touchdown all season.

Seven quarters of football later, he had become the only player in team history with a rushing, receiving and kick-return touchdown in three consecutive seasons.

There is perhaps no better depiction of how drastically Harvin can alter a game, and how diverse his options are for doing it, than that statistic. The receiver had two touchdowns in the Vikings' 30-7 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Oct. 7, scoring on a 4-yard run and a made-for-the-highlight-reels screen pass during which he faked two defenders off their feet before breaking a tackle.

A week after he ran the game's opening kickoff back 105 yards, the NFC's reigning special-teams player of the month didn't touch the ball on a kick. It didn't matter. Harvin had 116 yards on 10 touches, hauled in the Vikings' longest pass of the season and reignited early MVP discussions through his varied methods of torturing the Titans' defense.

"He's one of the best players I've ever played with," running back Adrian Peterson said. "He is so explosive. We need to continue to get the ball in his hands, because he will make something happen sooner or later."

Harvin is doing it in ways rarely seen in the NFL. On Sunday, he became just the eighth player in league history to score a rushing, receiving and kick-return touchdown in his team's first five games. Only two players -- Timmy Brown in 1963 and Bobby Mitchell in 1960 -- have posted more all-purpose yards than Harvin's 814.

During his revelatory 1965 rookie season, the great Gale Sayers had the same number of yards.

"Whether he's in the backfield, in the slot, wideout, returning kicks, he's a terrific football player," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We all know that. It's so obvious."

Frazier mentioned again Sunday that defensive coordinators were approaching him at the Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine last winter, telling him how hard Harvin was to defend and making him realize the Vikings needed to keep Harvin on the field as much as they could, simply to get defenses worrying about him.

Harvin played at least 67 percent of the Vikings' offensive snaps in their first four games, according to Pro Football Focus, after seeing that much action only four times all of last season.

The Lions limited Harvin to three catches last week, rolling extra safety coverage toward him. But on Sunday, he made it clear once more why he's so lethal, beating Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner on a 45-yard fade route for Christian Ponder's longest pass of the season and slithering past Jordan Babineaux and Colin McCarthy on his touchdown reception.

"He's probably the best player, if not the best player, in the NFL for what he does," defensive end Jared Allen said. "He's like watching 'Top Gun' out there. He hits the brakes and watches 'em fly right by."

These days, there aren't many players Harvin can't make look foolish. And with his deep bag of tricks, he's also proving he doesn't have many equals.

"It's humbling," Harvin said when asked what it means to have teammates calling him the league MVP. "It's a great honor, being (with) some of the names, not just in the NFL but on this team -- A.P. and guys like that. But at the same time I'm just worried about doing my job at a high level. So I'm not worried about all the talk. I'm just trying to do what I always do."

Follow Ben Goessling at twitter.com/BenGoesslingPP .