Adrian Peterson had just one catch for 17 yards against the Arizona Cardinals last Thursday, but his impact in the passing game was felt far beyond the stat sheet. Not typically known as a third down back or receiving option, Peterson played much more in two and four-minute situations, creating new opportunities for Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota offense.
He’ll never be a great pass blocker or receiver, but the threat of Peterson in the backfield is enough to alter the alignment and assignment of a defensive front. When Peterson is on the field, defenders stack the box, piling bodies near the line of scrimmage to sell-out against the run. This opens up the coverage down the field and exploits mismatches in the secondary, especially for big-bodied players like Kyle Rudolph and MyCole Pruitt. After the game, Mike Zimmer explained Peterson’s expanded role on passing downs and the team’s plan for him moving forward:
“We’ll probably continue to want more. When he’s in there, he’s a threat. One of the first things you do before you make the calls are, ‘Who is the back?’ so you can determine run-pass kind of things. So the more he’s in there, the more it helps your passing game as well.”