EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- I dropped by the Minnesota Vikings' practice facility Thursday and heard something I wasn't expecting: Tailback Adrian Peterson lobbying the Vikings to throw the ball downfield more often.
Peterson has always been a single-minded devotee of the power run game, but even he realizes the Vikings have little chance to run effectively Sunday if they let the San Francisco 49ers' stout defense sit on the line of scrimmage. The 49ers have stymied the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions' rushing attacks even while aligned with deep safeties and no more than seven men on the line of scrimmage. Imagine what they could do against the Vikings when stacking against the run and, presumably, disregarding the threat of a downfield pass.
Based on how the Vikings have played their first two games, the 49ers have no reason to push their safeties deep as they did against the Packers and Lions. They might as well put as many defenders as necessary at the line of scrimmage to shut down Peterson, who has struggled in two previous appearances against the 49ers. Only three other teams have held him to a lower average yards per game (44.0) in his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"These guys are good," Peterson said. "We're looking forward to the challenge. I don't think they've faced a run-attack offense like we have, so I think that can switch things up. … I'm sure they'll come in focused on trying to stop the run. That's where we've got to be productive offensively, keep those guys honest and complete some balls down the field, and then still run the ball."
Peterson added: "That's something we want to do: get the passing game going a little more with those deep balls and spread those defensive backs out some. I feel we'll be able to do that this week."
The Vikings are fairly undermanned when it comes to downfield threats, especially as Jerome Simpson serves the third and final game of his NFL suspension. To be fair, though, they've barely tried to test the defenses they've faced.
Only three of quarterback Christian Ponder's 62 passes have traveled more than 20 yards in the air, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Two fell incomplete, and the third was a 24-yard pass to receiver Devin Aromashodu during the desperate final seconds of regulation in their eventual Week 1 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave told reporters that "we definitely want to have more chunks going forward" and blamed himself for not providing Ponder better play-calling options in that regard. It would make sense for the Vikings to push the ball downfield more often, but we'll kindly say that the matchups don't appear to be in their favor this week.