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Reviving Run Game With Adrian Peterson

Posted Oct 18, 2017

If veteran can continue production, Cardinals' offense gains big benefit

Running back Adrian Peterson has made an impact on the Cardinals' offense already.

LONDON, England – Life should be so different for Carson Palmer now.

For five weeks, he was chucking the ball all over the field out of necessity, on pace to throw for more than 5,000 yards and crush the franchise record for passing attempts. The Cardinals’ non-existent running game was on an ugly pace itself, generating recollections of some of the worst NFL rushing seasons in 60 or 70 years.

Then Adrian Peterson arrived and the running game was reborn.

“Turning around and handing it to someone is so different then dropping and reading and getting through progressions,” the quarterback said. “It’s a really nice luxury to have that ability on third-and-3 you can give it to him and get it. It takes a lot of pressure and a lot off a quarterback’s plate when it seems like every time you turn around and hand it to him, he could break a big one.”

The Cardinals ran only 100 times in their first five games before running it 35 times last week. Their rushing yards per play jumped from 2.6 on the season to 4.6 on Sunday. Peterson’s two touchdowns were double the team’s five-game production. The Cards had five runs of at least 10 yards, one more than the previous five games combined.

It took Peterson only eight carries to set the team-high in yards rushing in a game.

None of this would’ve been necessary – including the Peterson trade itself – had David Johnson not been hurt. But Johnson’s first-game injury, along with offensive line injuries, derailed any run game. Getting left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone was crucial last week, but so too was Peterson.

[READ: CHANDLER JONES GAINS ANOTHER SACK]

Arians said one of the reasons Peterson is such a good fit is because he excels in the runs the Cardinals already had in the playbook. That Peterson has been in this position his whole career – a running game based on his success – means Peterson is built for the role.

“I take pride in it,” Peterson said. “I’ve always wanted to, when I was a young child, play in the NFL, and once I got this opportunity, my mindset was to be the best to ever do it. So, knowing that I can be that focal point, and I’m not selfish that way, (is OK). If we go out and pass the ball 60 times, and we’re able to beat guys on play-action, I’m cool with that. But, of course, you have to have that mindset to know, ‘Hey, put the ball in my hands, and I’ll get it done.’”

Arians said the initial playcall against the Buccaneers was a flea-flicker, but when the defense gave a look for which it wouldn’t work, Palmer checked into a straight run. It wasn’t ideal, Arians thought, but Peterson should at least be able to gain three yards.

Peterson gained eight.

Arians said it didn’t mean he’d be more creative with playcalling. “If anything, it’s more conservative,” Arians said, which is a notable admission for the “no risk-it, no biscuit” coach.

Arians admitted he took it personally this season with the offense scuffling so much. The return of the run game, with Peterson in place, would make life a little more satisfying.

“All of a sudden the first drive happens and there’s a lot of kind of dropped jaws, like ‘Wow, what did we just see?’ ” Palmer said. “Then the second drive it happened, the third drive it happened. So, it’s a luxury being a quarterback and having him back there.”

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