Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson had 24 touches in Sunday's 20-17 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions. It was 11 more than any other player at Ford Field. And it wasn't nearly enough.

The Vikings ran 18 third-down plays and failed to convert 10 times, including four turnovers. Peterson, the team's best offensive player, touched the ball on third down twice! He emphatically converted both opportunities but was virtually invisible on the other 16 third downs, which did include one spike to kill the clock.

To make it worse, Peterson wasn't even on the field on several third downs, including a third-and-1 from the Detroit 25 on what had been an impressive game-opening march.

Heck, it takes the hard-running Peterson 3 yards just to fall down. But the Vikings had Mewelde Moore in the backfield instead.

Moore had run 3 yards on an earlier third-and-1, but on this play, the Vikings got unnecessarily fancy and decided to pass to Moore in the right flat. It was one of too many questionable calls on third down.

Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, rolling to his right, forced a throw inside across his body to tight end Jim Kleinsasser. The ball was tipped by safety Gerald Alexander and intercepted by defensive tackle Shaun Cody.

It was the first of many mistakes that Jackson would make while throwing four interceptions and posting a 26.4 passer rating. But that's what young quarterbacks do in their fourth career start. Make mistakes. Especially on the road.

The Vikings' coaching staff could have -- no, should have -- protected Jackson a little better. No. A lot better.

When it's third-and-1, give it to Peterson. Period.

"You are always going to end up asking that question," Vikings coach Brad Childress said when asked why Peterson didn't run the ball on that third-and-1. "You can't run every time it's third-and-1, or pass every time."

Jackson went 5-for-11 for 58 yards and three interceptions on third down. Peterson blasted up the middle for a 5-yard gain on third-and-1, and set up the Vikings' first touchdown by taking a dump pass on third-and-4 at the Detroit 25, breaking three -- count 'em, three -- tackles before being dragged down 24 yards later at the 1.

It would have been nice to see more of that aggression on third down. But Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who calls the plays, and Childress, who has veto power, decided that was enough for Peterson on third down.


"In a couple of instances, there were a couple of [pass] protection issues," said Childress, referring to Moore's more advanced pass-blocking skills. "A couple, Mewelde we thought would take a better look at in terms of some of those draws.... It's kind of an ebb and flow there."

Childress essentially said the Vikings will self-scout their running back rotation on third downs and adjust if necessary. "You have to see if every one is a pass that he's out on, or every one is a run that he's out on," he said. "We'll just keep a good eye on it."

Peterson had 20 carries for 66 yards and four catches for 52 yards. He also kept his ego in check when asked if he wanted the darn ball when he was standing on the sideline for all those third downs.

"That's my mentality, to want to go in and get the first down," Peterson said. "But we have other backs who can run. I feel comfortable with all the guys out there on third down that they'll get the first down also. I don't question the play-calling."

Jackson also avoided any controversy when asked if he was surprised the super rook isn't around to help him out on third down more often.

"We got to give him a rest sometime," Jackson said. "Mewelde is an able back.... We don't want to tire [Peterson] out."

He won't get tired. He's 22 and stronger than a bull.

Turn him loose and let the young T-Jack take him for a ride.