Chalkboard: Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings’ Run Blocking

ADCoverThere’s no doubt that Adrian Peterson is one of the greatest running backs of all time and we saw more evidence of that Thursday night against Washington.

As good as Peterson can be though, he’s even better when his offensive line is blocking. During long stretches of Thursday night’s game, that wasn’t the case, but really that just highlighted how good he was.

And how much more impressive he is when the blocking is there.

Today, we’ll break down two of Peterson’s big runs from Thursday night.

18-yard Touchdown Run, 5:17 1st Quarter

This run was largely one which happened because of Peterson’s speed and elusiveness. Once he was at the second level, tacklers just couldn’t get a bead on him.

That said, for several runs prior to this Peterson had been struggling because the offensive line just couldn’t make the blocks he needed.

On this play, he got the sort of support he got more frequently during his 2012 NFL campaign.

Peterson lined up well in the backfield with fullback Jerome Felton set forward and to his right and quarterback Christian Ponder under center.

Tight end John Carlson and receiver Greg Jennings are also to Peterson’s right—the formation is heavily weighted right.

ADTDrunpresnapAt the snap, as announcer Mike Mayock mentions, center John Sullivan steps forward to engage the defensive lineman directly in front of him.

ADTDrun1stblockThere are a few things also worthy of note but not brought up on the broadcast. The left side of the line—left tackle Matt Kalil and backup center/guard Joe Berger do an excellent job sealing off the rush on that side and clearing the run lane.

Wide receiver Jerome Simpson (near the bottom of the screen) also gets out and sets up a nice block.

Sullivan passes off the defender he initially engages in to right guard Brandon Fusco, then steps out to pick up an incoming linebacker, Perry Riley.

ADTDrunLaneBoth sides of the line do a really nice job creating space, though Peterson himself shows off his vision and ability to “get small” in order to get through the sliver of space in front of him.

Once he gets to the second level, Peterson cuts the run outside to his left and turns on his speed. A few bad angles by tacklers later and he’s chalking up his eighth touchdown.

16-yard Run, :41 1st Quarter

Another solid example of good blocking came at the close of the 1st quarter.

The Vikings were on their own 43-yard line on second down with five yards to go.

Peterson had just caught a pass for five yards and the Vikings were driving down the field attempting to respond to a Washington touchdown.


The Vikings went four wide, spreading the defense and trying to keep them from stacking eight or nine men in the box in case Paterson ran. Peterson is the lone back, with no blockers or anyone else in the backfield save Ponder, who is in the shotgun.

Spreading the defense out gives the offensive line a better advantage in numbers—with receivers on either side of the line going out, there will only be the front four of Washington’s 4-3 clogging up running lanes.

The linebackers will probably initially hold off to drop into coverage, only stepping up when Peterson is well on his way to the hole.


As you can see after the snap, the offensive line does a great job of holding off the pass rush, save for Sullivan who has a little bit of an issue with his buddy from the touchdown run, Perry Riley.

Save for that, though, you can see that the line is firing out and has the defensive line on it’s heels. And since the defense was spread out, there is a spare offensive lineman—guard Brandon Fusco.

As you can see on the screen-capture, Fusco immediately gets to the second level and is in perfect position to throw a block at either of the linebackers there—both of whom are still hesitating to make sure the hand-off really happens and isn’t a play-action.

You can also see receiver Greg Jennings just off the left tackle, moving out as if going on a route. That holds a linebacker in place but also will allow Jennings to block for Peterson momentarily.


Sullivan shoves Riley out of the play as Peterson heads to the “6” hole, just off the right tackle, where receiver Joe Webb is blocking as well.

Note that Fusco and Jennings are now about to engage the linebackers in preparation for when Peterson reaches the second level.

As it stands, there is nobody in position to stop him the running back from doing so either.


Once Peterson gets through the hole, the blocking up ahead by Fusco and Jennings—as well as the receivers on the far edges of the play—allow him to have multiple choices and angles to take the ball.

This is where Peterson is most dangerous, at the second level with open space. He’s a pain to bring down at or behind the line but when he has space and speed he’s an absolute nightmare.


With a safety coming up to fill the gap to his right, Peterson wisely follows his blockers, which gives them about six more yards before he is brought down.

There’s a lot that Peterson can do on his own, but the difference between when he has to, versus when he has solid blocking is phenomenal.

When the Vikings offensive line can fire out and hit their blocks, Peterson goes from “dangerous” to “potentially lethal to the opposition.”

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at, the NFL writer at and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.



What We Saw: Washington at Minnesota

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Amazingly, losing to Minnesota didn’t wipe out Washington’s chances to win the NFC East and continue on into the playoffs.

That’s right, a 3-6 team is still in the playoff hunt! If Dallas loses to New Orleans while Philadelphia loses to Green Bay—both entirely possible—they’re just two games behind the division leader.

Minnesota is not that lucky.

This is a game which was far more entertaining than people expected even if it wasn’t Oregon-Stanford.

What else did we learn Thursday night?

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  • Apparently running Adrian Peterson is a good thing. Who knew? Certainly not offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave before last night. Don’t get caught up in Peterson’s 3.8 yards-per-carry fool you—he ran incredibly well despite multiple defenders in the backfield and his 18-yard touchdown run in the first was just one of a ton of incredible runs Thursday night.

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  • Musgrave, by the way, continues to show no inclination to adjust his offense to make things easier on his quarterbacks or take advantage of the talent around him. Aside from usually limiting Peterson to 13 carries this year, Thursday night saw the continued squandering of rookie Cordarrelle Patterson’s incredible ability after the catch. While it’s likely that Patterson is still learning the playbook and improving his route running and positioning—remember he only had a single season of FBS (formerly Division 1-A) in college— he can clearly handle simple screens, outs and slants. Yet here we are, just after Week 10’s game and the offense is just as vanilla as it was in Week 1. Last year we wrote it off because of injuries to Percy Harvin and Christian Ponder struggling. This year? Those excuses shouldn’t fly.

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  • Over the last four games, Washington’s defense has collapsed at some point in the second half every single time. That they are 2-2 in that stretch is a testament to Robert Griffin III and the offense, the incompetence of whomever they were playing or blind luck. Someone needs to tell the defense you play four quarters at the NFL level. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett seems to be making anti-adjustments in the second half and teams are finding ways to crack what should be a solid defense.

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  • It’s said in every column so you’ve heard it before but Griffin needs to stop playing like he’s Colin Kaepernick or Cam Newton. He doesn’t have the build to take the hits those guys do. He’s built like a sprinter—they are built like running backs. He has been running smarter but is still far too prone to taking big hits he shouldn’t.

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  • The Vikings have to be frustrated with Ponder’s dislocated shoulder since they still don’t know what they have in him. That said, they spent the money on Josh Freeman so expect to see him in Week 11 so they can figure out if he’s worth keeping. He’s now been in Minnesota long enough to have a grasp of the playbook. It’s not like it’s a complex offense, right Mr. Musgrave?

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at, the NFL writer at and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.