Monday night’s Saints-Vikings game had enormous significance for Adrian Peterson. Not only was the 2012 NFL MVP making his debut for New Orleans, he was doing so in Minnesota, where he spent the first 10 seasons of his career.
Thus Peterson probably would have liked to have gotten a teensy bit more playing time than what Saints Coach Sean Payton handed him Monday, including just four first-half carries on five snaps. That may well have been the source of the apparent frustration Peterson displayed to Payton, as caught by ESPN’s camera crew, late in the first half of what would become a 29-19 Vikings win.
In fairness, Payton did give Peterson the ball on the first two plays of the game, but after the 32-year-old running back took those carries for a first down, his coach very much took a committee approach with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Actually, while the latter two each got about the same number of carries as Peterson, they were on the field far more often.
Out of 62 Saints plays Monday, Peterson received just nine snaps, a career low (per Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus). At the same time, Kamara, in his first NFL game, got 31 snaps, and Ingram was on the field for 26.
Of course, the way the game unfolded, with New Orleans facing a 10-point deficit by halftime and a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter, had something to do with Peterson’s limited usage. Even in Minnesota, he was never a major pass-catcher, and in New Orleans, Kamara and Ingram were already slated for bigger receiving roles.
Nevertheless, Peterson had reason to be disappointed with his paltry snap count, and given the Saints’ porous defense and Payton’s long-standing preference for passing plays, that could be the case for much of the season. If so, we may have more meme-worthy moments between those two.
After the game, Payton denied that he and Peterson were “in any heated exchange” (via Pro Football Talk). “Listen, I’d tell you if we were in a heated exchange, so why don’t you ask him?” the coach said. “He was into it, we were all into it, there was none that I can recall. And I’m being honest.”
“There was no conflict. Let’s not try to spin it like it is,” Peterson said (via ESPN). “We have bigger fish to fry.”
Peterson also attempted to squash any controversy via Twitter, responding to a tweet from ESPN’s Sportscenter account.
According to NFL Research, Peterson’s six total carries matched a career low, and his 18 rushing yards were tied for the third worst of his career. This from a player whose 2016 season was cut short by injury but who in 2015 rushed for an NFL-leading 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns.
At halftime, ESPN’s Charles Woodson criticized the back’s lack of usage as a “travesty and disrespect,” and the network cut frequently to Peterson stewing on the sideline. It’s fair to guess that, as far as Peterson was concerned, that was a pretty bad look.
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