EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The first carry of Adrian Peterson's 2013 season saw him break free for a 78-yard touchdown. The first of the 2014 season will come in the building where he recorded the longest run of his career the last time he visited.
The Minnesota Vikings' previous trip to St. Louis came in Week 15 of the 2012 season, in a game the Vikings had to win to keep themselves in the playoff race. Peterson was in the middle of a transcendent stretch, having logged at least 100 yards in his previous seven games and gaining 210 two weeks before in Green Bay. The Rams game, though, turned out to be Peterson's best of the season; he ran for 212 yards on 24 carries, with 82 of them coming on a touchdown run that helped him get the last word over a defense Peterson said had him in a foul mood that day.
"What I do remember about that game is that it's first time in eight years, I've ever talked off to players," Peterson said in a conference call with St. Louis reporters on Wednesday. "Those guys had me so hot; like, I haven't ever been that mad playing football. Those guys were just running to the ball -- I love it, too -- but (they) were just yapping at the mouth. I'm talking about from the defensive front to the second level to the secondary. Those guys were just yapping and they were doing pretty good initially, kind of getting a couple tackles for loss, a couple of three-and-outs. And then when I gunned at them one time, it got real quiet. I'm not going to give you my hint. I hope they come in talking a lot of noise this time, too. I'm excited to play these guys."
Sunday's game should be a good opening test for Peterson against an aggressive Rams defense that was ninth in the league against the run last season while posting 53 sacks. The Rams took down opposing quarterbacks on 10.2 percent of their dropbacks, which was tied for the second-highest rate in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and pressure from the St. Louis front four could make Peterson a safety valve for Matt Cassel, through his new role in the passing game and delayed handoffs designed to take advantage of aggressive fronts.
"I think they do a tremendous job up front creating pressure, making you get the ball out quick, make quick decisions at the quarterback position," Cassel said. "I think it's going to be a big task for us this week to take care of that front and be able to let me get the ball out and I think that these guys will be up for the challenge."
Peterson didn't play at all in the preseason, and has seemed eager to get his first game action in the Vikings' new offense after a long stretch of non-contact work. "He welcomes contact even when he's running and doing those thing," Cassel said. "You can see that he doesn't shy away from it and it's almost the defender's responsibility to get out of the way. I think that that's how he's got to practice and that's how he plays no matter what the situation and that's good because once he gets to the season I think that's why he's ready to go."
He'll have a little extra edge playing against a Rams defense that brought out the best in him last time.
"They have some guys that can get to the ball, to the passer and they run to the ball well," Peterson said. "I know Coach Zimmer would love that type of defense. I'm excited to play those guys."