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PRO FOOTBALL: Two crowns would ease thorns in Peterson’s side

MINNEAPOLIS -- Vikings running back Adrian Peterson likes to prove people wrong, and he's hoping to do it twice Sunday night in Green Bay. Peterson said there weren't many people at the start of the season who thought the Vikings could win the NF...

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Dec 27, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) carries the ball during the third quarter against the New York Giants at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Giants 49-17. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

 

MINNEAPOLIS -- Vikings running back Adrian Peterson likes to prove people wrong, and he’s hoping to do it twice Sunday night in Green Bay.

Peterson said there weren’t many people at the start of the season who thought the Vikings could win the NFC North, but they would do that with a victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field. Peterson also can wrap up an NFL rushing title some doubted he could win considering he is 30 now and coming off a 2014 season in which he played just one game.

“We have worked hard to put ourselves in a position to get this (division) title,” Peterson said Thursday. “At the beginning of the season, no one would have thunk it. But here we are, so we’re just going to take advantage of it, stay calm and collected, and go out and do what we do best.”

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Minnesota and Green Bay are both 10-5 and have clinched playoff berths. A Vikings’ victory in the nationally televised game would give them the No. 3 seed and a home game next weekend against Seattle. A loss would drop them to No. 5 or 6 and put them on the road to open the playoffs at Green Bay or Washington.

Peterson has 1,418 yards rushing this season and a 64-yard lead on Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin. The nine-year veteran can become the eighth player with three or more career rushing titles and the second-oldest to win one after Curtis Martin, who was 31 when he won with the New York Jets in 2004.

Peterson can become just the third player 30 or older to win the crown. Cleveland’s Marion Motley was 30 when he did it in 1950.

“I like turning people into believers, and even if I win (the rushing title), people will still doubt me,” said Peterson, whose two titles came in 2008 and 2012. “That’s just the way of life. You have people that believe in you, you have people that doubt you. … I think people will add more to (a rushing title) because of the things that took place last year and people saying this about my age and so forth. For me, it’s something that I expected to accomplish.”

Peterson’s offensive linemen certainly believe in him. Guard Mike Harris says “every game” they remind him of winning the rushing crown.

In 2012, Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, the second-most in NFL history. He rewarded his linemen by giving them snowmobiles.

“Those were pretty sweet snowmobiles,” said tackle Matt Kalil, a rookie in 2012. “I took it out the first day and I crashed that thing. I gave it to one of my family members. … But he takes care of us, and he’s always been good to us. … (Another rushing title would) definitely be a cool accolade to have.”

The Buccaneers play at Carolina at 3:25 p.m. Sunday. So Peterson will know how many yards he needs for the title before he takes the field at 7:30 p.m.

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“That’s a perk,” he said. “But ultimately my mind is on winning the (division) title and doing my job and executing on every play that is presented to me.”

Peterson compares Sunday’s game a “little bit” to the regular-season finale against Green Bay in 2012, when he rushed for 199 yards and the Vikings won 37-34 to clinch a wild-card berth. A difference is that game was at home and the NFC North title wasn’t in play since the Packers already had clinched.

Now, the Vikings can end Green Bay’s four-year stranglehold on the division. And they can do it at Lambeau, where they haven’t won since 2009, the year they won their last NFC North title.

“The history around it, it’s always an amazing experience, driving up to the stadium, you see houses around the stadium,” Peterson said. “It kind of gives you that high school feel. … Going into it, on that ride up to the stadium, I’m going to be locked in and ready to roll.”

Peterson vows to be so fired up he doesn’t care where the game is held.

“We could play on a basketball court and I’ll be ready to play for this one,” he said.

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The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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