(Sports Network) - Adrian Peterson continues his MVP push in St. Louis asthe Minnesota Vikings face another must-win situation.
The star running back will also resume his chase toward 2,000 rushing yardswhile attempting to keep a flawed Vikings team in the NFC playoff race againsta Rams club, which also has a faint pulse in the hunt for the postseason.
It would be no surprise if Peterson's back was acting up since the All-Pro hasbeen carrying Minnesota this season. A.P. has rushed for 1,600 yards and 10touchdowns while averaging 6.04 yards per carry so far, becoming just thethird player in NFL history to rush for at least 1,600 yards and 10touchdowns while averaging 6.0-plus yards per carry in his team's first 13games. The others to accomplish the feat were Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1963)and O.J. Simpson (1973).
Peterson had a pair of first- quarter touchdowns last Sunday as the Vikingshanded the Chicago Bears a 21-14 loss at Mall of America Field last Sunday.He finished the game with 154 yards on 31 carries, earning NFC OffensivePlayer of the Week honors.
His quarterback, Christian Ponder, was just 11-for-17 with 91 yards with aninterception for the Vikings, who kept their slim postseason hopes alive bysnapping a two-game losing streak.
It was the fifth game this season Ponder had failed to throw for 150 yards, analmost unthinkable feat in this pass-happy era. Peterson, in fact, outgainedPonder's passing stats in the first quarter alone with 104 yards, a career-high for him in an opening frame.
"So very proud of this football team because all three phases played verywell," said Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier. "This game just epitomizedwhat a team win is really all about. The way everyone prepared for today makesme very proud."
The Rams, meanwhile, kept the good times rolling in Orchard Park last Sundaywhen Brandon Gibson's 13-yard touchdown catch with 48 seconds remaininglifted St. Louis over the Buffalo Bills, 15-12.
Gibson ended with six catches for 100 yards for the Rams, who have wonthree in a row for the first time since 2006 and remain in the wild-cardplayoff hunt.
Sam Bradford completed 19-of-39 passes for 209 yards, one touchdown and aninterception for St. Louis, which scored all 15 of its points in the secondhalf. Steven Jackson carried the ball 19 times for 64 yards and a score forthe victors.
"The offensive guys came alive on the last drive and made plays," Rams coachJeff Fisher said.
Minnesota leads the all-time series 18-14-2 and has won two of the past three,including the most recent, a 38-10 rout at St. Louis in 2009 when Peterson ranfor two TDs.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
This game figures to pit strength versus strength. The Vikings' formula forsuccess is to get an early lead behind Peterson and hide the overmatchedPonder.
Peterson is in the midst of a a career-best string of seven consecutive100-yard games, averaging 157.3 ypg over that span with eight TDs. The All-Proalso averages more per rush (6.0) than Ponder does per passing attempt (5.98),an almost unheard of metric.
Ponder's shaky decision-making and poor mechanics have translated into a 78.3passer rating, the worst among all NFC starters. The second-year pro hasfailed to throw for even 100 yards on three different occasions this season.
"Learning to be more patient in the pocket is big," Ponder said when talkingabout his nasty habit of sliding out of the pocket instead of stepping up."That's something I have to continue to work on and not so much when I do movein the pocket, not to move out, but to find ways to find a differentlane in the pocket to throw through and different things like that, butstaying in the cylinder rather than getting out of the pocket."
Minnesota simply can't play from behind because of Ponder's inability to getthe ball downfield.
"We're playing to our strengths," Frazier said. "That doesn't mean that wecan't open it up and throw the football, but when you have the best runningback in the National Football League in your backfield, I just don't know ifyou want to revolve around a passing game. Our offense is going to revolvearound number 28 and there is no secret to that."
The Rams have not allowed an opposing running back to gain more than 65 yardsin four straight games and are second in the league in sacks.
Offensively St. Louis' 324.3 yards per game is 25th in the NFL and itsaverage of 18.2 points is even worse at No. 29. In fact, Bradford and Co.have scored just four offensive TDs during the team's current three-game run.
"At the end of the day a win's a win," Fisher said. "We're not equipped likeNew England to put 40 up on everybody. Hopefully we'll get to that point, butright now we're finding ways to win."
Neither offense has consistent big-play ability so this figures to be a tightaffair that comes down to the NFL's two best rookie kickers, St. Louis' GregZuerlein and Minnesota's Blair Walsh.
Both have monster legs but Walsh has been a tad more consistent than"Legatron" so give a slight edge to the Vikings.
"We have to win this game," Frazier said. "If we don't win this game, it justputs us in peril. I've tried to bring the focus to that without ignoring thefact that we're in a playoff race. Every game for us at this point of theseason is like a playoff game. No game is bigger than this St. Louis game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vikings 17, Rams 14