It was hard to figure back in August why Adrian Peterson would sign with the Saints, or why the Saints would sign Adrian Peterson. It just didn’t make sense to a lot of people who have been around the league, knowing the system the Saints run.
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But in going to Arizona from New Orleans in a trade for a conditional sixth-round draft pick, Peterson created legitimate playoff contenders in the NFC West and the NFC South.
Arizona, that’s obvious. In his first game, Peterson rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 plays in a 38-33 victory over Tampa Bay.
He looked like the Adrian Peterson everyone remembers, getting into a rhythm, getting a lot of carries, running behind some double teams and some power blocking.
Even at 32, after 10 years in the NFL including an MVP season in 2012 and more than 11,700 rushing yards, the guy is just at another level. He still runs angry, like he has something to prove, which he clearly doesn’t. He could hang it up right now and be one of the best running backs to ever play the game. They’d show his highlights for the next 50 years. A back who runs downhill, who’ll put his foot in the ground and go north and south and is not afraid of contact, that’s special. Peterson runs like he’s 20 years old and an undrafted free agent trying to make the team.
Carson Palmer’s day looked easier, too. He didn’t have to throw it 50 times. He was in the 20s (18 of 22, 283 yards with three TDs and one interception), had a high completion percentage. It didn’t look hard. It looked comfortable for him back there.
Arizona is a good football team, but after David Johnson got injured the Cardinals were just trying to plug in things and see if they could make something happen. Adding Peterson could be just the piece to ignite them. Peterson is a perfect for a Bruce Arians-coached offense.
When you face Adrian Peterson, it changes the numbers game. You have to bring another guy into the box. You have to call run-stopping defenses, and now you’ve got to deal with Palmer, who has been around for a long time and can chop you up.
It was obvious how parting ways with Peterson helped the Saints, too. They freed up their offense and put up 52 points in beating Detroit.
Now the Saints don’t have to feel like they have to get Peterson his touches anymore. Now the Saints can focus on what they have been about – Drew Brees throwing for 5,000 yards every year.
With Peterson, the Saints had an identity crisis. They already had two good tailbacks in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, who played fantastic against Detroit without Peterson there.
New Orleans is playing sneaky good defense. The one thing they’ve never really had is a defense that could get off the field and is opportunistic. They have that this year, and it seemed that if they could find a way to get their groove on offense, they’ll be a good football team this year.
It was just a matter of finding the right chemistry and I think they have that now, and I think Arizona has that now.
Question of the week
From Jose Limon: You learned so many plays in four years in the NFL. What was your favorite play to use of your choice?
My favorite play was called a couple different things in a couple different places, but it’s an option route by the inside receivers.
If you’re in a 2-by-2 formation, where you have a tight end and a flanker on your right and a slot receiver and an X receiver on your left, my favorite play was to run option routes on the inside with my tight end and my slot receiver.
They have basically a two-way go off those inside linebackers. They can go 10 or 12 yards and break in and straight back to you, or if the linebackers’ leverage is on the inside they can break down and away toward the sideline. It’s a guaranteed completion. It lets those guys have the freedom to work off the linebackers, who shouldn’t be able to cover your best tight end or your slot receiver.
On the outside, you have a nice 15-yard comeback to the sideline. If it’s not open on whatever side you choose to throw that option route, you have perfect clear vision to that outside receiver. It’s a steal. It’s something I still run with my son’s high school football team. We’ve probably run it 50 times this year. It’s a pretty cool play for a quarterback because everything you’re looking at is right in line with your vision and with your feet.
What we call it here, it’s “Double right, 62, double hook, stop.’ It’s a good one. I ran that play in college. I ran that play in the NFL. And I watch my brother throw it now.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
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