The Panthers should be terrified of Adrian Peterson this weekend
We were reminded on Friday that there is much more to life than football when reports surfaced that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had left the team to see his son in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The two-year-old boy is in critical condition after having allegedly been beaten by the 27-year-old boyfriend of the child's mother. Peterson spent Thursday with his son, but returned to Minnesota on Friday and will practice with the Vikings.
Obviously, the biggest issue here is the health of Peterson's son. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. Hopefully, the fact that Peterson returned to practice on Friday indicates that his son is doing alright. Though the importance of this pales in comparison to an infant being beaten by a full-grown man, I'm going to get to the football aspect of this story.
One of the greatest traits that a running back can have is the tendency to "run angry." When a running back hits the hole like he has a distinct hatred for all 11 defenders, it can make tackling that runner extremely unappealing to his opponents. When Peterson takes the field against the Carolina Panthers this Sunday, he actually will be angry - infuriated, perhaps. The football field can be a great channel for anger, as you can't go around the streets knocking out random people, but you can on game day.
Emotion can often play a big part in sports, especially when you play a position that requires more aggressiveness and ferocity than careful thought and strategy - the running back position fits the bill there. Games that come to mind include Michael Jordan's Finals-clinching performance on Father's Day (his first NBA title since his father was murdered) and Brett Favre's 154.9 passer rating (399 yards, four touchdowns) that he posted the day after his father passed away.
Fortunately in Peterson's case, his son is still alive and presumably in stable condition, but the emotional factor could very well remain the same. Peterson is already one of the most vicious, punishing runners in the NFL, and I would not be surprised to see him display some all-time great mercilessness with the ball in his hands this weekend.
To top off the chances of Peterson having a big day, this is right around the time of year that he broke out in his near-record-setting 2012 campaign. Through his first six games last season, Peterson averaged just 83.2 rushing yards per game and had only two touchdowns, both of which came in Week 1. In Week 7, he went bonkers all over the Arizona Cardinals for 153 yards and a touchdown, and averaged 159.8 yards per game from then on out.
Thanks in large part to not having to recover from knee surgery this summer, Peterson has already had his breakout game of the 2013 season. Just before the Vikings' Week 5 bye, Peterson tore apart the Pittsburgh Steelers for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Before that game, he was averaging 93.7 yards and had gone two straight contests with less than 3.9 yards per carry.
Now in his October wheelhouse and with a monster game already under his belt, I believe Peterson will continue to stay in rhythm and gash opposing defenses like no one else in the league. I expect him to be running particularly hard on Sunday with his son in his thoughts. The Panthers have been very strong against the run this year, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry (sixth best in the league), but on this weekend in the wake of this situation, no statistic or defensive ranking is going to keep Peterson from terrorizing the men who try to take him down.