GREEN BAY—Had he broken one more tackle, Adrian Peterson would've completed a touchdown run that would've set the NFL all-time single-season rushing record, won the game and put his team into the playoffs, all on his final carry of the season. What a story it would've been.
"I'm not too bummed about it," the Vikings running back told Packers media on Tuesday. "I could've easily gotten it. My mark won't be to break Eric Dickerson's single-season record, it'll be to try to get 2,400, 2,500 yards."
That'll be Peterson's goal for the 2013 season. For now, his goal is to lead the Vikings to an upset win over the Packers this Saturday night in Lambeau Field, and make the Vikings the Cinderella story of this year's postseason.
"Great game. Our fans enjoyed it. We're in the playoffs. It turned out to be a great game for us," Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier said of the Vikings' 37-34, walk-off win over the Packers this past Sunday.
It forced a rematch between the Packers and Vikings. This time, the Packers will own the home field advantage, and that would be considered significant since the Vikings haven't won a game played outdoors this season. The forecast for Green Bay on Saturday is for temperatures in the teens during the game.
"It's going to be cold. We know it's going to be cold. I think when you get to the playoffs, it really doesn't matter about the place, the climate. It's just a different season when you get to this time of year," Frazier said.
The Vikings lost at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2, on a day when the temperature at kickoff was 45 degrees. The Vikings held a 14-10 lead at halftime of that game, and appeared to be on the verge of increasing that lead following a 48-yard run by Peterson on the first play of the second half. Two plays later, however, Christian Ponder was intercepted by Morgan Burnett in the end zone, on a pass Ponder should've never thrown.
Since then, Ponder has been a different quarterback and the Vikings haven't lost. They've won four in a row, behind Peterson's run to glory and Ponder's subtle emergence as a quarterback that can manage the game and make plays at critical times. That's what he did most recently against the Packers, converting a critical third-and-11 play with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, and throwing three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
That loss in Lambeau was a turning point for the Vikings.
"We talked about what we felt like after the game. It was a tough day for us up there at Lambeau. Our players stuck together like I hadn't seen before, and I knew that was a good omen going forward. We're playing more like a team than at any point in our season," Frazier said.
Ponder has been the catalyst.
"Christian is still growing and developing as a quarterback. You're seeing his true character coming to the forefront. He's become a better quarterback, a better decision-maker and leader, as well," Frazier added.
"The plays he made, that's what you need to be able to do at that position to win a championship. We were really able to open the playbook up. He did what you want to see your quarterback do in big ballgames. He played at a high, high level for us."
Peterson, of course, has been the constant.
"You can put 11 in the box. We had a second-and-27 and he got 28 yards. We're never afraid to give it to Adrian," Frazier said of his star running back, who has gained 409 yards rushing in two games against the Packers.
Peterson wears down defenses. He forces them to load up against the run, softens them for Ponder to exploit.
"You can see it in their eyes. I like sitting back there in the huddle, looking at their eyes, checking them out," Peterson said of opposing defenses.
"We're very confident. We know the type of environment it's going to be," Peterson said of this Saturday's game. "I feel like we're peaking at the right time." Additional coverage - Jan. 1