Vikings fans have come to expect excellent games from Adrian Peterson, but NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman writes "just because he does it every week doesn't mean he shouldn't be **commended** for doing so."
*The Vikings running back is already on pace for another Pro Bowl year, leading the league in rushing yards (1,164), attempts (237) and yards per game (105.8) despite missing all of 2014. He's single-handedly taken Minnesota to the top of the NFC North standings, and is running away with Comeback Player of the Year. *
But most importantly, he's playing his best in the most vital of games. Following a disappointing performance against the Packers, Peterson ripped up the Georgia Dome turf in a matchup between two playoff-hungry teams. AD terrorized the Falcons' front seven all day en route to a 158-yard performance on a dominant 29 rushes. Peterson salted the 20-10 win away with a fourth-quarter 35-yard gallop to the end zone for his second touchdown on which he accelerated, a la 2012 Peterson, through the Falcons' secondary with no regard for human life.
While Peterson will be the first to credit blocking from teammates with helping him break loose, he also posted significant yards after contact against the Falcons.
Barr handles recovery process
Anthony Barr's prolific game Sunday against Atlanta was helped by improved health, particularly the recovery of a hand injury, writes Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.
"For two games, he basically played one-handed," said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
*Zimmer was referring to a Nov. 15 win at Oakland and a Nov. 22 loss to Green Bay, games during which Barr played with a heavily bandaged left hand and wrist -- the result of an injury suffered in a Nov. 8 victory over St. Louis. *
"It's all better," Barr said Monday.
So Zimmer ****turned him loose*** against the Falcons. *
According to Pro Football Focus, Barr rushed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan seven times. That included a game-clinching, fourth-down sack that forced a fumble with 4:34 remaining.
Valuable safety valve
Chris Miller of the Star Tribune noted that Antone Exum, Jr. **played well in filling in** for Harrison Smith and knew the importance of staying on the field after Andrew Sendejo was injured and replaced by Robert Blanton:
"I thought, 'I don't care what happens, you've got to stay in the game, because we don't have anyone else that plays the safety position on the sidelines,' " Exum joked Monday, a day after the Vikings' 20-10 victory.
*Exum, a second-year player, finished with three tackles, one for a loss, and recovered a fumble. He said he fit in well. *
"Everybody just goes out and tries to play for each other," he said "If you make a mistake, it's not just about you making a mistake. You're thinking, 'Oh man, I could have left the corner out to dry on that one' … or, 'I wasn't in the right gap, and now I put the linebacker in a hard spot' … so we have a good camaraderie.
Historical perspective on streak
John Holler of Viking Update put the Vikings current **four-game win streak** in road games into context with a look at the past. This is Minnesota's first such streak in one season since 1998 by a "legendary Vikings team."
*The reality is that four-game road winning streaks are extremely rare for anyone, including the Vikings. That feat has been accomplished just seven other times in the 55-year history of the franchise – the 1998, 1992, 1983 and 1975 teams strung together four-game road winning streaks and three teams put together five-game road winning streaks, in 1974, 1971 and 1969. *
Holler noted the role that free agency (introduced in 1994) has had in reducing dynastic stockpiling of talent by teams.
An argument can be made that only the 1998 Vikings and 2015 Vikings are on equal footing. The first five of the other seven teams (1969, 1971, 1974, 1975 and 1983) weren't talent-strapped by free agency. If you had a strong scouting department, you could stay dominant for years, which helped explain that, for more than a decade, you could accurately predict six of the eight playoff teams every year – Minnesota, Dallas and Los Angeles in the NFC and Miami, Pittsburgh and Oakland in the AFC.
Wright on different, but good track
Ben Goessling of ESPN.com noted that the duties of Jarius Wright have changes since he signed a multi-year contract extension before the season, writing "the thoughts were that Wright and the rest of the Vikings' receivers would find favorable matchups behind defensive fronts committed to stopping" Peterson.
*Eleven games into the 2015 season, it's a much different story for the 26-year-old. He's been targeted with only 33 passes, catching 19 of them for 257 yards. He's on pace to finish with numbers below what he posted in 2013, the first time he played 16 games. Wright's playing time hasn't only dropped by more than 10 percent, but he's being asked to run block more often when he's in the game, too. *
If any of that bothers Wright, you won't hear him say it. He's ****part of a mixture*** that has the Vikings at 8-3. *
"Everybody's embracing their role," Wright said. "It probably is [hard] at first, but you just have to buy into the system. You have to realize the coaches have the best plan — this is what they do, and we go out there and executive it."