The Minnesota Vikings’ historically bad running game was supposed to get a big boost when Adrian Peterson returned to the line-up after spending most of the season on injured reserve. To be kind, that’s not what happened on Sunday. The Indianapolis Colts came in to US Bank Stadium desperately needing a win to stay relevant in the AFC playoff race, but the Vikings appeared to already be thinking about what they’ll be doing in the offseason. There were a few individual efforts that merit praise, but the team as a whole looked unco-ordinated, unsynchronized, and unmotivated. Andrew Luck is a good quarterback, but the Viking defence made him look like the league MVP — when they weren’t giving up bone-headed penalties and playing out of position. Without safety Harrison Smith in the defensive secondary, the Colts’ tight ends and receivers seemed to be open all game long.
Before the game started, the TV announcers emphasized how much trouble Indianapolis would have against the Vikings’ fearsome defensive line, especially as the Colts would be starting three rookies at centre, right guard, and right tackle. Yet once the game began, a strange thing happened: Andrew Luck remained upright and almost completely untouched until the fourth quarter when Tolzien came in for clean-up duty. No turnovers, no sacks, and almost no pressure made Luck’s day a very easy one.
Adrian Peterson, activated from injured reserve on Saturday, got the start for the Vikings but was unable to do anything behind Minnesota’s historically bad offensive line. His longest run of the day ended in a lost fumble that the Colts turned into a touchdown. It would probably have been better for Peterson and the Vikings if he’d waited until next week to make his return: Jerick McKinnon was much more effective in both the running and passing game after Peterson was benched.