Loyal to the Bears for his entire career despite almost no opportunities in the backfield, he has made a place in the hearts of fans. It took four years of riding the bench until injuries forced him into the backfield for his first career start. He returned the favor by running over the 49’ers for 120 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. If that’s any indication of his potential, his 5 yards a carry will be a welcome change to Belly Flop Benson.
You won’t see his name on many statistics from last year’s Super Bowl run. Peterson became that player that put his heart and soul on the field without much reward. There wasn’t a kickoff last season where you wouldn’t find Peterson flying downfield ready to throw his body into the scrum.
Scrum is a fitting word if you watched the performance this past weekend at Soldier Field. When the Bears badly needed a touchdown, Peterson took the ball at the 4 yard line and was quickly met at the 3 yard line. A normal running back would go down and shield himself from injury. Peterson is not a normal running back. He’s a utility man, he’s a team player, he’s a special teams animal, he plays with heart.
The thing about heart is it can be contagious. Olin Kruetz was the first to join in the effort and soon the entire offensive line was involved in an all out scrum, pushing and shoving their way into the end zone. Peterson didn’t score because he made a great cut or juke, he scored because he motivated his teammates to have heart. You can’t help but love a player like Peterson.
Facing a tough Giants defense on Sunday that likes to get after the quarterback, the running game is going to be key. The Bears may be in better shape with Peterson in the backfield the entire game with his far superior hands. The opportunities Peterson has had this year is on third downs when he makes a tough block or goes in the flat to make a tough catch and take a big hit. Having a player like that on the field the entire game could be a difference maker.
Look for the Bears to utilize Peterson as a weapon and try to neutralize the Giants pass rush with lots of screen plays and quick dump passes to the sidelines. Both plays work towards Peterson’s abilities and give the Bears a good chance for their first back-to-back wins of the season. I’m a bit relieved to have Peterson in the backfield and think his talent and heart have long been overlooked. He has earned his time to be called a veteran in the league and deserves more than to be called the Other Adrian Peterson.