Against the Panthers, Adrian Peterson was not having a great first half on the ground despite coming into Sunday’s game as the NFL’s leading rusher.

Peterson got the running game going in the second half, and he finished with 86 yards on 21 carries, but it was Peterson’s ability to be an efficient pass catcher that really caught me (and apparently the Panthers) by surprise.

“That was unbelievable. That was his biggest receiving game his whole career,” said quarterback Christian Ponder. “They kept dropping deep and leaving him open and we kept taking it. When it was a two-play drive, both were to him. … I’ll take that all day.”

Ponder is right when he said that was Peterson’s best day in the passing game of his career.  He had 76 yards on five catches, beating his previous record of 73 yards which came against the Panthers, too, back in 2009.

His receiving touchdown was the first he has grabbed in nearly a year and only the third of his career.

As Peterson continues to work on his few remaining faults, becoming a consistent pass catcher could really take this offense to the next level, as well as his Hall of Fame application.  Christian Ponder, of course, deserves credit for recognizing Peterson’s ability to get open after the field has been stretched.

“Five catches for 76 yards. That’s huge. And part of that is Christian beign able to make some plays in the passing game (downfield),” Leslie Frazier praised Peterson and Ponder after the game. “It forces people to loosen up a little bit. He’s smart enough (to know), OK, I can’t throw over the top of your defense, I’ll check it down to a guy, who in the open field is tough to bring down.”

The Vikings now have two weeks to prepare to beat the Packers in Green Bay, and in order to do so logic would suggest that Peterson will certainly have to be a big part of the game plan.  Now the Packers won’t be able to wonder if they will also need to account for Peterson in the passing game.