EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson left U.S. Bank Stadium on crutches with a torn meniscus.
Sam Bradford was seen shaking his left hand in pain for much of the game.
The Minnesota Vikings took their lumps in a 17-14 victory Sunday night, and much of it had to do with a leaky offensive line that had a hard time protecting their top playmakers.
Peterson managed just 19 yards on 12 carries and found little room to run before leaving in the third quarter with his injured right knee. Bradford played very well in his Vikings debut, but was sacked four times and was hit many more by an aggressive, blitzing Packers defense. The quarterback was left with a swollen and discolored non-throwing hand that required X-rays after the game.
“He took hits he shouldn’t have taken,” left guard Alex Boone said. “He delivered the ball well. Just an overall great performance by him.”
Playing just two weeks after being acquired from Philadelphia in an emergency trade following the season-ending knee injury to Teddy Bridgewater, Bradford completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He outplayed Packers star Aaron Rodgers and inspired teammates by hanging in against the constant pressure, taking hits time and again and still throwing bullets to his receivers, including emerging star Stefon Diggs.
“He’s as talented as they come and we’ve got to protect him a little bit better and not see him on the ground so often,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “But we’ll get there.”
The Vikings revamped their offensive line in the offseason, signing Boone from the San Francisco 49ers and right tackle Andre Smith from the Cincinnati Bengals, and moving Brandon Fusco from left guard to right guard. They also fired offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and hired former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, hoping he could bring some intensity and fire to a group that, in coach Mike Zimmer’s eyes, lacked both last season.
It’s early, and the new group could benefit from more games together to gain cohesion. But the results have been troubling through the first two weeks.
Peterson, who led the NFL in rushing last season, has managed just 50 yards on 31 carries through the first two games. He has gained 2 yards or fewer on 20 of those 31 carries.
“We didn’t play very good up front last night,” Zimmer said on Monday. “We didn’t pass protect very well. We didn’t do a very good job in the run block. They got after us up front, I thought. So we’ve got to do better.”
Zimmer wasn’t ready to rule out Peterson the game Sunday against Carolina (1-1), but recovery times for even minor meniscus tears usually take at least a couple of weeks. But whether it is Peterson or backup running backs Matt Asiata or Jerick McKinnon taking handoffs from Bradford, the results will be the same if the holes aren’t there.
“You see hope in some plays, and in others, we just shoot ourselves in the foot and give up a sack or do something stupid,” Boone said. “It’s just one of those things where we’re so close, but I’m so sick of hearing that and so sick and tired of everybody talking about it, that we need to get it fixed, because we’re going to play a really tough team this week.”