‘It’s not tough’: Lions’ Adrian Peterson at ease with erratic backfield role

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

According to last Sunday’s broadcast, running back Adrian Peterson drew interest from the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles before he agreed to sign with the Detroit Lions. 

That’s two of the last three Super Bowl winners — and in Kansas City’s case, the favorite this year — but Peterson chose the Lions because he believed he could make the biggest impact here. 

And through two games, he’s been impressive, giving Detroit’s ground game a much-needed boost. Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated to wins. And with the way the game against the Packers developed, with the opponent jumping out to a three-score lead early in the second half, it’s also eaten into Peterson’s role. 

In Green Bay, he played just 15 snaps, matching his season low from a year ago. And he’s been on the field for 39 snaps through two weeks. 

For a running back so used to being the guy, you might think the limited workload might be problematic. But Peterson always knew this would be a possibility when coming to Detroit — not because of blowout losses like last weekend, but knowing he would be sharing touches with two other talented options in Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift. 

“It’s not tough at all,” Peterson said when asked if it’s difficult to establish a rhythm with inconsistent playing time. “You kind of flash back to that (Green Bay) game, I want to say was either late third quarter or fourth quarter, I was kind of on the sideline for a good period of time. And a third-and-1 came up and my number was called. I went in there and picked up 6 yards. I’m a vet. I know how the situation is working out right now. For me, it is what it is. If it is four carries, I’m gonna take advantage of those four carries. If it’s four snaps, I’m going to take advantage of those four snaps, you know? All I can do is control what I can control and that’s making sure that I’m prepared and ready to help this offense be productive when I’m out there.”

More: Detroit News predictions: Lions at Cardinals

And to be fair, Peterson was partially at fault for his limited playing time down the stretch last Sunday. With the Lions down 10 in the third quarter, Peterson whiffed on a block in pass protection. That rushed quarterback Matthew Stafford’s throw, which was intercepted by Packers cornerback Chandon Sullivan and returned for a touchdown. 

“Yeah, you want to get that guy down,” Peterson said. “He did a great job of — well, my landmark was good actually, he just kind of went inside and made an athletic play. You know, those guys get paid on the other side of the ball, as well. On that snap, he won and was able to apply pressure on our quarterback sooner than expected. One bad rep, decision on me, because I should have adjusted a little quicker, as well, it led to another bad decision.”

That third-and-1 play Peterson mentioned, it was his only touch the rest of the game. 

But there should be an opportunity to rebound this week against the Arizona Cardinals, one of Peterson’s former teams. While the Cardinals defense has been surprisingly stout to start the 2020 campaign — allowing just 17.5 points per game — they have been susceptible to opposing rushing attacks, giving up 5 yards per carry in their victories over San Francisco and Washington. 

And fueled by Peterson’s fast start, the Lions are averaging 4.5 yards per pop on the ground, on track for their best season in two decades. 

“It won’t be hard (to establish the run against Arizona) if the guys up front do their job and we have confidence in our guys,” Peterson said. “They have showed, two weeks in a row, they can hold the line of scrimmage, they can dominate up front. The offensive line is not the issue, at all.”

That directness is part of what Peterson has brought to Detroit’s locker room. And while others have danced around the question this week, he is willing to state the obvious about the hole Detroit is in at 0-2, calling Sunday a “must-win” game. But with that, he also brings the same unbridled confidence as many of his teammates that a turnaround is coming. 

“Taking it was two divisional games, that really sucks and put us in a hole,” Peterson said. “But the good thing is we see those guys again, you know, and we can even the series 1-1. That’s something, not looking ahead, but that’s just something to keep in mind. It’s a long season. There are 14 more games out there. We’ll just say we’re going to go 14-2.

“We know that (the Cardinals) are a good football team with a lot of new pieces and they’re playing well. You can see it by their 2-0 record. But at the end of the day, we have a good team here, offensively and defensively, special teams. We just have to go out there and execute a full game for four quarters and play football. Not riding the wave of the game, being able to respond. It’s all about responding — how do you respond when you’re down 14 or they break it for 75 yards? How do you respond as a defense when you’re going back out there? How do you respond as an offense? This week we have another opportunity to get it right.”


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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