Eric Bieniemy probably deserved a game ball following the Vikings’ win last week over the Bills.
Adrian Peterson, who was limping around on his injured ankle and clearly wasn’t healthy during practice last Friday, had to prove to interim coach Leslie Frazier that he could play. He worked out for Frazier, Darrell Bevell and a trainer two hours before the game. Still, Frazier didn’t want to play Peterson.
But it was Bieniemy who convinced Frazier that Peterson needed to play.
Peterson, who had started 51 consecutive games, basically had to beg coaches to play. Then he went out and rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns, including a 43-yard score.
During his postgame chat with the players, Frazier told them he didn’t know how he even thought about not playing Peterson. He joked Bieniemy should have stopped him the minute it entered his mind.
This is the kind of thing, though, that builds team unity and chemistry. The Vikings can believe in one player and that player comes through for them.
The week before against the Redskins, after Peterson injured his ankle, there was a discussion at halftime about whether the Vikings should stick with the game plan behind Toby Gerhart or let Brett Favre try to win the game. Center John Sullivan approached Frazier and encouraged him to keep running the ball. Frazier decided not to deviate from the plan.
Frazier learned from Buddy Ryan how to listen to his players. Frazier has veto power, of course, but he knows the players have a vested interest to make things work. The Vikings stuck with the game plan and went out and ran the Redskins out of the stadium.
The Vikings also stuck with the game plan against the Bills after Favre went down. They didn’t panic. This is a different team after the last two wins as a result of how they have won. And they love Frazier for it.
Peterson is the best running back in football. He runs violently and breaks the will of the defense. Defenders just don’t want to tackle him late in games. Chris Johnson is a “Can you catch him?” type of back. Peterson is that, as well as a “Can you tackle him?” back. Even if you catch him, you might not get him down … but he’s fast enough that you might not catch him.
Frazier told me the Vikings want to get back to being the team they were in 2008, and you’re seeing it the last two weeks. That was a team that ran the ball in a physical way and relied on Peterson (who had his best season in ’08 with 1,760 yards) because they didn’t have a quarterback they could rely on.
That’s where the Vikings are headed, with Peterson leading the way.
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