(Eds: Updates with quotes, details. With AP Photos.)|
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - The last time the Minnesota Vikings won a game at Chicago, some rookie rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
His name was Adrian Peterson, and he'd love to do that against the Bears again.
``It's a sound defense, but I feel like we can run the ball on them. We just have to be patient and keep pounding the rock and be balanced offensively,'' Peterson said Friday after practice.
That's about what they did on Oct. 14, 2007, the breakout performance of Peterson's nearly unparalleled career. He was no secret to the NFL as the seventh pick in that year's draft, but the Vikings were still using Chester Taylor heavily and listing Peterson on the depth chart as a backup until that afternoon. He followed three weeks later with an NFL-record 296 yards against San Diego.
``You knew the unique skill set that you saw scouting him,'' general manager Rick Spielman said recently, reflecting on the easy decision to draft Peterson when he slipped down the top of the board due to concerns about a broken collarbone he suffered his last season at Oklahoma. Spielman added: ``The drive to be successful, the drive to be the best, the drive to win a championship: all those things came out when we interviewed him.''
Five years later, Peterson has already put a devastating knee injury in his past with this post-surgical season. He entered this week with 1,128 yards rushing, by far the most in the league.
``No one ever envisioned that, but that's what makes Adrian so unique and so special,'' Spielman said. ``He put in his mind that he was going to not only come back but be better than he was before the injury.''
Peterson said Friday he doesn't remember many details from that breakout performance in 2007, except for his pants nearly coming down during a kickoff return and, of course, the fact that the Vikings were victorious.
``It was a big win for us. It was a way for me to get out there and make a name for myself somewhat. But that was what, five years ago? It's a totally different team,'' Peterson said.
He's more focused on the present and the turnover-forcing terror the Bears' defense has become. They have an NFL-leading 30 takeaways. This veteran group doesn't have to be reminded about the fumbling problem Peterson had earlier in his career.
``They've got guys out there trying to reach and get the ball out. It depends on what type of guy you're playing. It can lead to a big play,'' Peterson said.
Quarterback Christian Ponder will have to be careful, too. But not too careful.
``They're very opportunistic, but I don't think we're going to do anything different. We can't play scared. We need to go out and be aggressive and be smart,'' Ponder said.
Coach Leslie Frazier said he sees the turnover-causing success as contagious.
``If one guy punches a ball out, then you see other guys raking and stripping,'' Frazier said, adding: ``One or two guys get it started and it's kind of grown throughout their defense. It's definitely been a turning point for their team.''
The Vikings have a tough task with consecutive road games against Chicago and Green Bay, the NFC North co-leaders. But the schedule as such also gives them the immediate opportunity to win the next two weeks and take control of this difficult division. This is clearly their turning point.
``It has so many ramifications, this game, for our football team and what we want to get accomplished in 2012. That's what makes it so important,'' Frazier said.
NOTES: Peterson spoke to reporters for the first time since his resisting-arrest charges, stemming from a summer incident in Houston, were dropped. He said he was disappointed he had to testify in front of a grand jury, which kept the details private. ``But it's a blessing to have it out of the way and I can go forward,'' he said.
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